Feast of Saint Matthias
(Celebrated 14 May)

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Acts 1:15-17, 20-26

In those days, Peter stood up in the center of the brothers; there must have been a hundred and twenty gathered together. "Brothers," he said, "the saying in Scripture uttered long ago by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David was destined to be fulfilled in Judas, the one that guided those who arrested Jesus. He was one of our number and he had been given a share in this ministry of ours. "It is written in the Book of Psalms, 'Let his encampment be desolate. May no one dwell on it,' And again, 'May another take his office.' It is entirely fitting, therefore, that one of those who was of our company while the Lord Jesus moved among us, from the baptism of John until the day He was taken up from us, should be named as witness with us to His Resurrection." At that they nominated two, Joseph (called Barsabbas, also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed: "O Lord, you read the hearts of men. Make known to us which of these two you choose for this apostolic ministry, replacing Judas, who deserted the cause and went the way he was destined to go." They then drew lots between the two men. The choice fell to Matthias, who was added to the eleven apostles.

 

John 15:9-17

Jesus said to His disciples: "As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Live on in My love. You will live in My love if you keep My commandments, even as I have kept My Father's commandments and live in His love. All this I tell you that My joy may be yours and your joy may be complete. This is My commandment: love one another as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. I no longer speak of you as slaves, for a slave does not know what his master is about. Instead, I call you friends, since I have made known to you all that I heard from My Father. It was not you who chose Me, it was I Who chose you to go forth and bear fruit. Your fruit must endure, so that all you ask the Father in My name He will give you. The command I give you is this, that you love one another."

 

Feast of Saint Matthias

The first act of the apostles, after the Ascension of Jesus was to find a replacement for Judas. With all the questions, doubts, and dangers facing them, they chose to focus their attention on finding a twelfth apostle. Why was this important? Twelve was a very important number to the Chosen People: twelve was the number of the twelve tribes of Israel. If the new Israel was to come from the disciples of Jesus, a twelfth apostle was needed.

But Jesus had chosen the original twelve. How could they know whom he would choose?

One hundred and twenty people were gathered for prayer and reflection in the upper room, when Peter stood up to propose the way to make the choice.

Peter had one criterion, that, like Andrew, James, John, and himself, the new apostle be someone who had been a disciple from the very beginning, from his baptism by John until the Ascension. The reason for this was simple, the new apostle must have been a witness to Jesus' resurrection. He must have followed Jesus before anyone knew Him, stayed with Him when He made enemies, and believed in Him when He spoke of the Cross and of eating His body; teachings that had made others melt away.

Two men fit this description; Matthias and Joseph called Barsabbas. They knew that both these men had been with them and with Jesus through His whole ministry. But which one had the heart to become a witness to His resurrection. The apostles knew that only the Lord could know what was in the heart of each. They cast lots in order to discover God's will and Matthias was chosen. He was the twelfth apostle and the group was whole again as they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

That's the first we hear of Matthias in Scripture, and the last. Legends like the Acts of Andrew and Matthias testify to Matthias' enthusiastic embrace of all that being an apostle meant including evangelization, persecution, and death in the service of the Lord.

How does one qualify to be an apostle?

Clement of Alexandria says that Matthias, like all the other apostles, was not chosen by Jesus for what he already was, but for what Jesus foresaw he would become. He was elected not because he was worthy but because he would become worthy. Jesus chooses all of us in the same way. What does Jesus want you to become?

Have you ever felt like an afterthought, a latecomer? Or have you ever resented someone new who was added to your group? Try to see your community as not complete without the newcomer, whether you or someone else. Welcome any newcomers to your parish, work, or family community this week as someone chosen by God.

 

vela-c2.gif (2466 bytes)Saint Matthias, pray that we may become worthy witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus in the way we live the eternal life we have right now.

Amen