The Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle

In the celebration of Easter Time (the great 50 days) the Church invites us to prayerfully consider that the Victory of God has been accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  But we are also asked to ponder that this Good News of Victory is for all the world and each one called has a “portion” or “share” of the work of spreading the message by lives of faithful attentiveness to Jesus.

Today’s Feast day of Saint Matthias focuses on these two themes by recalling, in the Reading from Acts of the Apostles, the historical act of selecting a person to take up Judas’ portion of the Apostolic labor of witnessing to the Resurrection of Jesus.  The apostles determined that it needed to be a man who had walked with Jesus from the earliest days of his ministry.  We don’t know any details of Matthias’ response to Jesus except by Luke’s witness that from the baptism of Jesus until the Resurrection, the two men put forward had been faithful to Jesus and his message.  They chose these two men to enter a discernment by lots – a means often used in Judaism and in the early Church to allow for God’s ultimate choice. “The Eleven” prayed that God would read their hearts and choose the right person between them.  The lot fell to Matthias to fill in the twelfth place abandoned by Judas.

Matthias is not mentioned overtly anywhere else in the New Testament, the point here is less about his own gifts than about the charism of leadership necessary to fulfill the promise of Jesus to restore “the twelve tribes” – a symbolic expression of the whole people who are saved by Jesus’ Mission, just as the original 12 tribes were the whole of the people called by God to constitute the “people of God.” Matthias had been a faithful disciple and God “knew his heart.” Thus, he is confirmed in his leadership to witness to the Resurrection and shepherd the people.

Today’s Gospel reminds all of us that to be a true disciple (a lá Matthias) we are each called to “remain” in Jesus’ love – that is, both receiving God’s love through Jesus and returning our willed love to God through Jesus. (Love is recognized more in deeds than in words, we are reminded by a later disciple).  To remain in the original Greek usage, to be attentive to, or set up a tent with.  In other words, we are to live with Jesus – all day, every day.  We have been invited into this relationship – to live in and witness to love as he defines it by his behavior.   

In a world where there is a great deal of emphasis placed on everybody having the same “rights” to all good things, it is tempting to think that everyone has a right to live in God.  But it is important to remember the character of gift giving.  God CHOOSES us to live with the Divine Self – we don’t have a “right” to be chosen – and we also don’t have a right to exclude anyone else’s invitation.  It belongs to God to determine who is invited to “remain” in the Divine presence.  The criteria by which we know of our invitation is our willingness to love those – all those – around us because God gives us that capacity.

Recently a speaker on Creighton’s campus told a few students attending his talk that “his neighbor was the person who lived next door who was legally documented to live in this country.”  By the criteria of the Gospels of both Luke and John this stance fails the “remain” test; such a one does not remain in Jesus’ tent – but has chosen a path outside of the command to love as Jesus loves. Similarly, one who destroys a human child unborn or born, or who despises a whole population of humans because of skin color does not live in Jesus’ tent.  By refusal of the command to love each other and the marginalized we fail to remain in Jesus’ love. Once given the capacity to remain in Jesus’ love we become “response-able,” to remain.

St. Matthias, faithful disciple and “designated hitter for Judas’ portion of the mission,” support our desire to remain in Jesus’ love.