“As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew. He said to him, ‘Follow me.’”
In the Gospel passage that recounts the calling of the tax collector, Matthew Jesus shows us that he is where we are. Whether we are living a holy life, struggling with temptations inundating us like a hurricane, or lost in the mire of vice or sin, Jesus is always passing by.
Jesus is not passing by intent on avoiding us. He is passing by in order to see us, to show us that we are seen with the eyes of respect and love. Jesus sees us, as we most deeply are. He delights in us, for he has made all things good.
There are many reasons why I want to avoid your gaze, Jesus. I don’t feel worthy. I don’t know how to respond to you. I’m afraid. But here you are, passing by, seeing me as you saw Matthew.
I can imagine Matthew with either an arrogant gaze—by which he defended himself from the hatred of his fellow countrymen—or a defensive, sullen, withdrawn attitude as he isolated himself from their disdain. Jesus looked into Matthew’s eyes, eyes that had known only rejection from others, and for the first time Matthew knew that someone truly saw him. Someone had seen his wounds, his fears, his desires, his folly, his sin, and his potential.
You saw him, Lord Jesus, and you called him by name and you invited him to live in your presence. You wanted him to be both your disciple and your apostle. In following you, Matthew was to embark on the adventure of metanoia and mission, to proclaim your glory to the world. In fact, he did both immediately.
“And [Matthew] got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples.”
The rich young man had walked away sad, unable to really give himself over to the following of Christ. Matthew, on the other hand, jumped up, immediately corresponding to the grace of his call. To the one who had really seen him—who did not consider simply that he had betrayed his people by extorting their money and overcharging their taxes—to this Lord and Master he entrusted his whole life.
This one loving look of the Savior that expressed a commitment to his dignity and a willingness to care about him, changed his life forever.
Pope Francis in his peace message published on December 17, 2021, invited us to have the eyes of Christ for each other. He called it the “culture of care.”
“The culture of care … calls for a common, supportive and inclusive commitment to protecting and promoting the dignity and good of all, a willingness to show care and compassion, to work for reconciliation and healing, and to advance mutual respect and acceptance…. May we never yield to the temptation to disregard others, especially those in greatest need, and to look the other way; instead, may we strive daily, in concrete and practical ways, to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another.”
When I am hurt or angry, I have to admit my eyes are not caring. My gaze can be arrogant or withdrawn or sullen. Jesus’s gaze alone restores to us the joy of life, the kind of happiness that radiates from our soul through our eyes. When you see a person perfectly at peace or someone who spends a lot of time in prayer, you can see that radiance, that happiness. Their eyes have a depth to them that cannot be fathomed.
Allow Jesus today to see you as he passes you by. He is there to call you again and again to follow him. When you have followed him, turn then to cast eyes of concern and respect and acceptance on your brothers and sisters. For it may be that they will only know the gaze of the Lord through your eyes, and his gentle compassion through your words.
Praying with this passage of Scripture
Lectio Divina is a way of listening to God as he speaks in his Word. It is a practice of communicating with God through Scripture and attending to God’s presence and what he wishes to tell us. In this slow and prayerful reading of the Word of God, we allow ourselves to be transformed by the Spirit who forms us into the image of Christ.
There are four movement in Lectio Divina: Read (lectio), Meditate (meditation), Pray (oratio), Contemplate (contemplation).
Begin by finding a still space to pray. Breathe deeply and become quieter within. Abandon any agenda, worries or thoughts you bring to this prayer and entrust these things to the merciful care of God. Ask for the grace to be receptive to what God will speak to you through this Scripture reading. Grant me, Jesus Divine Master, to be able to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God and your unfathomable riches. Grant that your word penetrate my soul; guide my steps, and brighten my way till the day dawns and darkness dissipates, you who live and reign forever and ever Amen.
Begin by slowly and meditatively reading your Scripture passage out loud. Listen for a particular word or phrase that speaks to you at this moment and sit with it for a time.
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Meditate (meditatio) – Read the same passage a second time. As you re-engage the text, let the word or phrase that stood out become your invitation to speak from your heart with God who wishes to share his heart with you. Allow this word or phrase to wash over you and permeate your thoughts and feelings. You may wish to repeat this phrase quietly and gently for a period of time.
Pray (oratio) – Read the text a third time. Listen for what God is saying to you. Speak heart to heart with God. Notice the feelings that this conversation with God raises up within you. Share with God what you notice about your response to this conversation. You may wish to return to repeating the phrase quietly and gently, allowing it to permeate you more and more deeply.
Read the text a final time. Now be still and rest in God’s embrace. Ask God to give you a gift to take with you from this prayer. You might ask God if he is inviting you to do some action, for instance, make some change in your thoughts, attitudes or reactions, in the way you speak or how you treat others. Thank God for this gift and invitation as you conclude your prayer.
Photo Credit: Wilfredo Mendoza via Cathopic