«He did not wait for me to say: “Have mercy, my Lord!” He said to me: “Follow Me!”»
– Matthew, when asked to speak on his meeting with Jesus
323. Matthew: «I cannot use the same serene words of Andrew. He was a just man, I was a sinner. Therefore my word has not the joyful note of happiness, but it has the confident peace of a psalm. I was a sinner. A great sinner. I was living in utter error. I had hardened in it and I felt no discomfort. If at times the Pharisees or the head of the synagogue lashed me with their insults and reproaches, reminding me of God, the inexorable Judge, I was terrified for a moment… then I would relax thinking foolishly: “In any case I am as good as damned. Let me have a good time, therefore, as long as I can.” And I sank deeper and deeper into sin.
«Two years ago an Unknown man, came to Capernaum in springtime. He was unknown also to me. He was in fact unknown to everybody, because He was at the beginning of His mission. Only a few men knew who He really was: those whom you see here, and few more. I was greatly surprised at His demeanour, which was more chaste than a virgin’s. That was the first thing that amazed me. I saw that He was austere and yet He was always willing to listen to the children who went to Him as bees fly to flowers. Their innocent games and ingenious words were His only relaxation.
«Then His power amazed me. He worked miracles. I said: “He is an exorciser, a holy man.” I felt that I was so disgraceful as compared to Him, that I shunned Him. He was looking for me. Or that was my impression. Every time He passed near my bench He would look at me with His kind rather sad eyes. And every time I felt my torpid conscience start and it never fell back to the same level of stupor.
«One day, as people exalted His words, I felt like listening to Him. And hiding behind the corner of a house I heard Him speak to a little group of men. He spoke informally, on charity, which is like an indulgence with regard to our sins… As from that evening, I, the greedy hardhearted man, wanted my many sins to be forgiven by God. I did things secretly… But He knew that it was I, because He knows everything. Once I heard Him explain just chapter 52 of Isaiah: He said that the lewd and those whose hearts are not circumcised will not enter His Kingdom, the heavenly Jerusalem, and He promised that that Celestial City, the beauty of which He described so convincingly that I felt nostalgia for it, would belong to those who went to Him. And then… Oh! On that day His look was not a sad one, but a commanding one. He broke my heart, He stripped my soul, He cauterised this poor soul of mine, He took it in His hands and tortured it with His exacting love… and I had a new soul. Repentance and desire led me towards Him. He did not wait for me to say: “Have mercy, my Lord!” He said to me: “Follow Me!” The Mild One had defeated Satan in the sinner’s heart.
«May this tell you, if anyone among you is worried because of his sins, that He is the good Saviour and that you must not shun Him, on the contrary, the more one is a sinner, the more one must go to Him with humility and repentance, in order to be forgiven.»