There are a growing number of good resources for Ignatian spirituality on the web, and I discovered a new one today, daily reflections sponsored by the Magis Institute. Today’s reflection was written by my good friend Joe Simmons, SJ, who was a part of the Jesuit Mission Band mentioned earlier on these pages.
I admit, I love the painting too.
I have heard Jesuits preach about Caravaggio’s famous painting, “The Calling of St. Matthew,” for the past four years now. Are all Jesuits this unoriginal, or is there something especially compelling about this painting that speaks to the heart of the sons of St. Ignatius?
Michelangelo Caravaggio depicts a gaunt Jesus pointing at Matthew, who is seated around a table of well-dressed tax collectors in a shady customs post. An oblique ray of light cuts through the darkness just above Jesus’ pointed finger. The light bathes Matthew’s face, which betrays a look of tempered surprise – “surely, not I Lord,” he seems to say. Matthew knows he is not a wholly worthy disciple of Jesus – look at the company he keeps and the life he lives, after all! And yet there is Christ, pointing at him and summoning, “follow me.”
All followers of Christ are called to renew our commitment to serve under the Banner of the Cross. Let us not fool ourselves – this is no small order. It takes courage and perseverance. In an exhortation from several decades ago, the Jesuit leadership wrote the following inspiring and humbling challenge to the sons of Ignatius:
“What is it to be a Jesuit? It is to know that one is a sinner, yet called to be a companion of Jesus as Ignatius was: Ignatius, who begged the Blessed Virgin ‘to place him with her Son,’ and who then saw the Father himself ask Jesus, carrying His cross, to take this pilgrim into His company.”
Caravaggio and this exhortation from a general congregation of the Society of Jesus highlight today’s Gospel call to Matthew:
“Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Today, let us rejoice that despite all of our faults, all of our sins, all of our imperfections, Jesus does not wait to call us tomorrow, next week or next year: He calls us today. Perhaps take a few minutes searching out the image of Caravaggio’s “Calling of St. Matthew” on the Internet. Imagine yourself in that scene, seated with Matthew. What is it like to have Christ’s light shine on your own hesitations and worries about His call to discipleship?
And here’s the link if you’re interested in daily reflections from the Magis Institute.