Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
HOS 6:1-6/LK 18:9-14
Soon after his election, Pope Francis gave an extensive interview to Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., then editor in chief of La Civilta Cattolica, on a variety of topics. Fr. Spadaro began the formal part of the interview by asking point-blank: “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” Echoing his words at the time of his election, Pope Francis replied: “I do not know what might be the most fitting description….[T]he best summary, the one that comes more from the inside and I feel most true is this: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon…. I always felt my motto, Miserando atque Eligendo [By Having Mercy and Choosing Him], was very true for me.”
He then elaborated that when he had visited Rome in the past, he had lodged in the vicinity of Via della Scrofa and had often visited the near-by Church of S. Luigi dei Francesi [St. Louis of the French] to contemplate Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s masterpiece The Calling of St. Matthew. “That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him…. It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff…. I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.”
In the light of today’s gospel recounting Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the publican, perhaps we might want to contemplate Caravaggio’s painting to see if we can discover ourselves there, being called by the Lord as cherished sinners.
Fr. Mike Joncas
Artist-in-Residence and Research Fellow, Catholic Studies