According to the interview Pope Francis gave a little over two years ago, not long after he had been elected Bishop of Rome by the honorary priests of the diocese of Rome (yes, that’s what the cardinals are), St. Matthew has a special place in his heart and in his sense of vocation. In fact, his untranslatable motto, in Latin Miserando atque Eligendo, comes from a homiletic commentary by St. Bede the on the calling of Matthew the Tax Collector to be an Apostle. The motto has been translated a number of ways, but I think the simplest expression of its meaning is “having mercy and choosing,” that is, “Jesus looked at Matthew with love and mercy and chose him.” Jesus made the choice out of love.
The Holy Father continues,
“I often visited the Church of St. Louis of France, and I went there to contemplate the painting of ‘The Calling of St. Matthew’ by Caravaggio. That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew. It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff. I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.”
Pope Francis carries a great grace simply because he has never desired to be anything but a humble servant. He heard and answered the call that challenged (and continues to challenge) his own sinful worldliness, and so he speaks with power – a power not his own – when he challenges the worldly priorities of our day. He didn’t ask for this, but he accepts it with a full and unconditional, “Here I am,Lord.”