Vatican City, Jul 7, 2013 / 12:48 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In order to do the Lord’s work, Pope Francis said, we should remember our first encounter with Jesus, in which we were invited to recognize our own sinfulness and experience his loving gaze.
“Those who consider themselves righteous, they can cook in their own stew!” the Pope said during morning Mass on July 5. “He came for us sinners and this is beautiful.”
Pope Francis celebrated the Mass alongside the Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino, on the day of Venezuela’s national holiday.
Staff of the Vatican’s Governorate also attended the Eucharistic celebration.
Reflecting on a Bible passage in which the tax collector Matthew decides to follow Jesus, he asked those present to remember their first encounter with Christ.
“Remember always, it is like blowing on the embers of that memory, no? Blowing to keep the fire alive, always,” he said at the chapel of St. Martha.
“That memory gives Matthew strength and to all of them to forge ahead: ‘the Lord has changed my life, I met the Lord!’” he added.
Pope Francis gave his homily based on the Gospel passage in which Jesus invites Matthew, a tax collector, to follow him. Later in the reading, Pharisees criticize Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners to which he replies, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick do.”
“The taxpayers were sinners twice because they were attached to money and were also traitors of the country in the sense that they collected taxes from their own people for the Romans,” said the Pope.
“Matthew feels Jesus’ gaze upon him and he feels stunned,” he said. “He hears Jesus’ invitation, ‘follow me, follow me.’”
According to the Holy Father, Matthew is then “full of joy but he’s also doubtful because he’s also very attached to money.”
“It just took a moment and we see how (the artist) Caravaggio was able to capture it, that man who was looking, but also, with his hands, was taking the money,” he stated.
He noted that there is “a moment in which Matthew says yes, leaves everything and goes with the Lord.”
“It is the moment of mercy received and accepted, ‘yes I’m coming with you!’ and it is the first moment of the meeting, a profound spiritual experience,” said Pope Francis.
He then reflected on the second part of the reading, during which Jesus eats with the sinners and tax collectors.
“The Lord feasts with the sinners. God’s mercy is celebrated,” he said.
He explained how the biblical parables talk of those who refuse to take part in the Lord’s feast; that Jesus went out to find the poor and the sick and feasted with them.
“And following these two moments, the stunned encounter and the feast, comes the ‘daily work’ of announcing the Gospel,” he added.
The Pope stressed that this work “must be nurtured with the memory of that first encounter, of that feast” and that this work is not just for one moment, but lasts up to the end of one’s life.
The strength to do this work, he told the Governorate, comes from the memory of “those events, of that encounter with Jesus who has changed my life, who had mercy!”