Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle
Matthias is my confirmation name, so imagine my surprise when I sat down to write today’s reflection and found that it is the feast of St. Matthias. Even as a pubescent know-it-all I had some decent reasons to choose Matthias’ name. Sure, it caught my eye at first because it was the name of the hero in Brian Jacques’ award-winning Redwall novel. However, I truly chose him because I related to how Matthias was stepping into the rank apostle, and even though the others could be dunderheads at times, he had big shoes to fill. A feeling I can relate to as I admire the accomplishments and character of my three older siblings. But there is more to Matthias than I had ever considered. That is the direction I’d like to take the rest of this reflection.
Let’s turn to scripture. As the Apostles were discerning how to replace Judas they decided “Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.” What catches my eye at first, is that Matthias was a disciple, following the Lord, but had never been called to be an Apostle. When he is then chosen over Justus (Barsabbas), does he second-guess it? Does he question if it should be him because Jesus never called Him to be an Apostle himself? St. Paul at least got knocked off his horse by a mystical encounter with the Lord, Matthias got chosen by the equivalent of a dice roll. What a foundation of stalwart confidence!
With this idea in mind, this possibly second guessing, inadequate feeling Matthias becomes more than Judas’ replacement. He becomes the Apostle to everybody else. He becomes the Apostle for the Christian who: feels inadequate in the presence of other Christians; is tempted to ascribe their ministry and service to chance opportunity instead of divine appointment; fears falling into the same failures as those who have gone before us; wonders why Jesus withholds the extravagant clarity that he gives to others; or are plagued by the ‘what if questions’ of life.
So what became of our benchwarmer Apostle? He was martyred like 10 of the other 11. Any inadequacies that he may have flirted with (and his flirting with them at all is my own theory) did not call his devotion to Christ into question. Certain of his role or not, Matthias stepped up to the challenge. Yes, as my 13-year-old brain figured it, he had big shoes (sandals rather) to fill. But they weren’t Peter’s, John’s, James’ or any of the others’ sandals. They were Christ’s. By his martyrdom, Matthias showed that he took that challenge seriously. He did not trivialize Christ’s words, rather he took seriously what Jesus says in today’s gospel: “No one has 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.” Jesus is his friend. He laid down his life for Him.
Matthias, Apostle to the ordinary Christian, please pray that our faith may always be grounded in Christ and the deep life-giving friendship he offers us. That we can have faith that God acts not only in big ways, but in and through the ordinary. Pray that we can reciprocate that gift of self in the face of pain, hardship, and even death.
Dear God, make us instruments of your will, placing us where you desire us, just as you did for St. Matthias. Amen.