Ok, the feast of St. Matthew was this past Sunday and since it was on a Sunday, we didn't really get to celebrate it. But it's a good feast worth noting. Heck, that's my brother's name too! The calling of St. Matthew has always rung deep in my heart. There is something about seeing St. Matthew caught up in the affairs of money and is daily routine and hearing the words of Jesus, "Come, follow me", that strikes a clear chord to me. How could you not get up? How could you not just leave everything behind and go? He is calling. He is calling you! GO!
So on the feast of St. Matthew I quote not from myself but from a homily of a wise priest who tells this story and much more.
The link to the site is here. And the author is Fr. John Jay Hughes.
"A cardinal was visiting a community of Carmelite nuns in Italy. After celebrating Mass for them, he asked the Mother Superior if he could see how they lived. Carmelite nuns are enclosed. They don’t leave the cloister. And visitors talk to them through a grille. The cardinal’s request violated their rule. But when a cardinal asks, you don’t say No. So the Prioress asked one of the nuns to show him round.
They visited the refectory, where the nuns sit on wooden benches without backs to eat their simple meals off bare wooden tables. The cardinal saw one of the cells where they sleep: a small room furnished with a narrow bed, a table to serve as a desk, and a hard wooden chair; a single light bulb overhead and a gooseneck lamp on the table. Instead of a basin with running water there was a large washbowl on a stand, and on the floor next to it a large crockery jug. The nun explained that water was brought from the bathroom down the hall.
At the end of the short tour the nun led the cardinal up a narrow stairway to the flat terraced roof above, furnished with hard benches and a railing all round. “On feast days like Easter and Pentecost,” she explained,”we can come up here, if the weather is fine, for our recreation period.” The view was beautiful. Across a valley they could see a magnificent villa surrounded by formal gardens and several fountains. It was summer. A gardener was cutting one of the hedges. Children were frolicking in the swimming pool. A couple were playing tennis on one of the two courts.
The cardinal turned to the nun who was showing him round.
“How long have you been here in Carmel, Sister?” he asked her.
“I entered twenty years ago next Easter,” she responded.
“Sister,” he said, “if the young man of that house had asked you twenty-one years ago to come and live there with him there as his wife, do you think you would be here today?”
“Your Eminence,” she replied. “That was my house.”
Why? Why would a young woman give up all that luxury and all that beauty? I think if we could have asked her, or hundreds like her round the world, she would have said something like this:
“I wanted to be with Jesus”...
...Jesus is offering you something he offers to only a few, something precious beyond words. He is offering you a life that will sometimes be hard, but which will be filled with meaning and filled above all with joy...When Jesus calls you, go for it! And one day you too will be able to say what I say to you right now: What a wonderful life! I have experienced already here on earth a little bit of heaven. Is God’s call just for religious professionals, priests and nuns? Don’t you believe it! While you were still in your mother’s womb, God already had a plan for your life. He calls each one of us, as he called those four rough fishermen in today’s gospel. He calls us to walk with him, to be so full of his love that others will see the joy on our faces and want what we have. Christianity, it has been said, cannot be taught. It must be caught.
“I could never do that,” you’re thinking? You’re wrong. Here is a list of some of the great people in the Bible. Every one of them had a reason for thinking God could not use them. So the next time you feel like God can’t use you, remember:
Noah was a drunk. Abraham was too old. Isaac was a daydreamer. Jacob was a liar. Leah was ugly. Joseph was abused by his brothers. Moses had a stuttering problem. Gideon was afraid. Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer. Rahab was a prostitute. Jeremiah and Timothy thought they were too young. David had an affair and was a murderer. Elijah was suicidal. Isaiah thought himself unworthy. Jonah ran away from God’s call. Naomi was a widow. Job went bankrupt. Martha was a perpetual worrier. The Samaritan woman was five times divorced. Zaccheus was too small. Peter denied Christ. The disciples fell asleep while praying. At Jesus’ arrest, they all forsook him and fled. Paul was too religious. Timothy had an ulcer. And Lazarus was dead!
So what’s your excuse? Whatever it may be, God can still use you to your full potential. Besides, you aren’t the message. You’re only the messenger.
When you were born, you were crying, and everyone around you was smiling. Start today (if you haven’t started already) living your life so that when you die, you’re the only one smiling, and everyone around you is crying."