A few weeks ago we had a young priest from our parish, speak to our homeschool group. Father Matt brought this picture, which had been given to him as an ordination present. It is The Calling of Matthew byMichelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio,
The two standing men on the right side of the picture are Jesus and St. Peter. Their clothing is significant. Jesus looks like he is dressed in the style of the time because Jesus is for all men through all time. But St.Peter is wearing biblical clothing as he signifies the church that calls us from the ages. St. Peter representing the church, and Jesus are both calling to St. Matthew.
The lighting in the painting is also significant. Even though there is a window on the wall the light seems to be coming from a heavenly source above Christ's head. Light falls on all the men at the table, even the man who is looking downwards, avoiding the gaze of Jesus.
The men around the table are interesting. There is the man at the far end counting all of his money, too engrossed in the task to look up and see Christ and presumably pretending not to hear his call. The older gentleman with the glasses has the light shining fully on him, and yet he too is looking down at the money. Perhaps he has all of the education and head knowledge of Christ, but has still not really encountered him. The man pointing seems surprised at Christ's call and seems to want to be sure that it is Matthew that is being called and not him! But the youth at his shoulder has his face fully in the light and looks receptive to anything Christ might say. The young man with his back to us looks as if he is ready and eager to stand up in Christ's direction.
Is just the man over the money Matthew? Or are they all Matthew at different times? and are their bits of Matthew in our own lives?
I think especially now a lot of people are so concerned about money and the day to day survival that maybe the voice of Christ is blocked out as we just focus on our daily needs. Maybe even since Matthew was a tax collector and this is tax season we might be more focused on getting those returns done than in getting ready for lent!
I tend to relate more than I should with the older gentleman with knowledge and education of Christ but lacking the motivation to just look at Christ and be in his presence. Unfortunately perhaps I am also a bit more like the pointing man, looking for someone else to answer the call instead of me. It would be wonderful this lent to become more like the youth- face shining with the light of Christ and intent on listening carefully to him, as well as the other man, ready to get up and just follow.
Father Matt said that there are times in our lives where we can be like each one of the men, and certainly I see the open face faithful look in each of my children. But Father also said that maybe we are each one of these gentleman at different times during the same day! And I can see that to be true as well.
Ash Wednesday is this week. During the journey of Lent I would like to progress as a person and bring my family too, from the far side of the table, over to the side closer to Christ, our faces fully in the light and ready to follow in an instant.
To get ready for Lent and to help observe it, I have collected a number of fine links over the years, and I am sharing them with you here with a link in the side bar.