Restoration

Restoration

Posted November 06, 2015 in The Pope's Corner:
Can a Traitor Become a Friend?

by Pope Francis.

On a day like any other, as Matthew, the tax collector, was seated at his table, Jesus passed by, saw him, came up to him and said: "Follow me." Matthew got up and followed him.

Jesus looked at him. What power must have been in his eyes to make Matthew get up from his table!

Matthew was a publican: he collected taxes from the Jews to give to the Romans. Publicans were looked down upon and considered sinners; as such, they lived apart and were despised by others. One could hardly eat, speak or pray with the likes of these. For the people, they were traitors: they extorted from their own to give to others.

Jesus, on the other hand, stopped; he did not quickly walk away. He looked at Matthew calmly, peacefully.

He looked at him with eyes of mercy; he looked at him as no one had ever looked at him before. And this look unlocked Matthew’s heart. It set him free, it healed him, it gave him hope, a new life, as it did to Zacchaeus, to Bartimaeus, to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, and to each of us.

Even if we do not dare raise our eyes to the Lord, he looks at us first. This is our story, and it is like that of so many others. Each of us can say: "I, too, am a sinner, whom Jesus has looked upon."

I ask you to be still for a moment and to recall with gratitude and happiness those situations, that moment, when you felt the merciful gaze of God in your lives.

Jesus’ love can see beyond appearances, beyond sin, beyond failures and unworthiness. He sees beyond our rank in society. He sees beyond this, to our dignity as sons and daughters, a dignity at times sullied by sin, but one which endures in the depth of our soul.

He came precisely to seek out all those who feel unworthy of God, unworthy of others. Let us allow Jesus to look at us. Let us allow that look to become our joy, our hope.

After the Lord looked upon Matthew with mercy, he said to him: "Follow me." Matthew got up and followed him.

After the look, a word. After love, the mission. Matthew is no longer the same; he is changed inside. The encounter with Jesus and his loving mercy has transformed him. He leaves behind his table, his money, his exclusion.

For Matthew and for all who have felt the gaze of Jesus, other people are no longer to be "lived off," used and abused.

The gaze of Jesus gives rise to missionary activity, service, self-giving. Jesus’ love heals our short-sightedness and pushes us to look beyond, not to be satisfied with appearances or with what is politically correct.

Jesus opens the way and invites us to follow him. He invites us to gradually overcome our preconceptions and our reluctance to think that others, much less ourselves, can change.

He challenges us daily with the question: "Do you believe? Do you believe it is possible that a tax collector can become a servant? Do you believe it is possible that a traitor can become a friend? Do you believe it is possible that the son of a carpenter can be the Son of God?"

His gaze transforms our way of seeing things, his heart transforms our hearts. God is a Father who seeks the salvation of each of his sons and daughters.

Let us gaze upon the Lord in prayer, in the Eucharist, in Confession, in our brothers and sisters, especially those who feel excluded or abandoned.

May we learn to see them as Jesus sees us. Let us share his tenderness and mercy with the sick, prisoners, the elderly and families in difficulty.

Again and again we are called to learn from Jesus, who always sees what is most authentic in every person, which is the image of his Father.

—Excerpted from Pope Francis’ homily at the Plaza de la Revolucionon during his visit to Cuba, Sep. 21, 2015

 

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