Father Doug Liebsch: A message for National Vocation Awareness Week

Note: National Vocation Awareness Week is Nov. 7-13.

“As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, ‘Follow me.’” — Matthew 9:9

Jesus Christ is the one who can break into our life and offer us hope, healing and a path forward. There are specific moments in our life where this becomes much more evident. This image of the “Calling of St. Matthew” by Caravaggio not only captures that moment for St. Matthew, but allows us a lens to see the finger of Christ pointing toward each of us as well.

By Father Douglas Leibsch

Take a look at this image. Look at Matthew. Most people would say he is the bearded fellow in the middle of the table. This image captures the moment when he realizes Jesus Christ, the popular preacher and healer, is pointing at him.

I love that we don’t yet know Matthew’s response. All we can see is the shock on his face. We see his finger pointing back at himself as if to say, “You are not calling me, are you?” Matthew’s past would have screamed out, “NO!” Jesus couldn’t possibly call a tax collector, someone who extorted so much of his own people’s money. Not only this, but Matthew’s interior disposition is still attached to wealth as is depicted by his right hand still clinging to a coin that he himself is not yet sure if he is willing to drop.

But the call of Matthew was not dependent on him having a perfect past, nor was it required of him to be currently detached from anything worldly. It was simply dependent on that finger of Christ, the new Adam, pointing straight at him.

Although we can see the face of Christ on the right side, with a thin halo above his head, we see that his figure is hidden by Peter’s, who as the vicar of Christ, represents the whole Church. This shows that as much as the call comes from Jesus, whom we encounter most profoundly in prayer before the Eucharist, his call is confirmed through Peter, through his Church.

“The Calling of St. Matthew” by Caravaggio (image credit Adobe Stock)

It is essential for us to see the hand of Christ and to hear his voice not only in the Eucharist but in those people around us. It is also essential for all of us to realize that we are called to be like Peter. We are called to see where Christ’s hand might be pointing and to reach out and point in a similar manner. Who might Jesus be pointing to in your life? Perhaps it is a son or daughter, friend or cousin, teammate or co-worker, that Jesus is calling to be a priest or enter religious life. Consider asking them, “Where do you see Jesus calling you to follow him right now?”

Most of all, we must realize in the depths of our soul, “Jesus is pointing at me.” Lastly, take a look at Jesus’ feet. You need to pay attention to detail in order to see that Jesus is moving. He is passing by! There is a sense of urgency here. Either you get up and follow him now, or you stay clinging to whatever it is that you have valued more than him.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”14″]“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” — Pope Benedict XVI[/perfectpullquote]

In this edition of the magazine, we will hear from a variety of folks who have sensed the hand of Jesus and the hand of the Church pointing toward them. They have all in some sense asked the question, “Is Jesus really calling me to be a priest, deacon, sister, or to live a sacrificial single life?” Hopefully their stories can help each of us see the finger of Christ pointing more clearly in our direction as we receive his mercy and follow him in the vocation he has called us to.

In 1953 there was a young man named Jorge who went to confession on Sept. 21, the feast of St. Matthew. In this confession he felt a deep sense of God’s mercy as well as the call to become a priest. He later said, seeing himself as another Matthew: “In that confession, something very rare happened to me. I don’t know what it was, but it changed my life. I would say that I was caught with my guard down. … It was a surprise, the astonishment of an encounter. I realized that God was waiting for me. From that moment, for me, God has been the one who precedes. … We want to meet him, but he meets us first.” — Pope Francis

Father Doug Liebsch is the director of the diocesan Vocation Office.

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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