Apostle by Destiny: Feast of St. Matthias

Acts 1:15-17, 20-26; John 15:9-17

The list of the Apostles given in Matthew, Mark, and Luke do not agree in every detail; one or two of the less familiar names differ by evangelist and, just to complicate matters, Matthew’s list differs depending on which ancient manuscript of Matthew you’re looking at. Naturally these differences have led to confusion and disagreement about exactly who was who. Regardless, everyone agrees about one thing – the name Matthias does not appear in any gospel list of the Twelve.

However, Peter makes two things clear in today’s reading from Acts. First, he recognizes that Christ chose twelve as a structural number; that is, it was the office that mattered, not the name of the man who filled it. This is why he says in reference to Judas, May another take his office (Psalm 109:8). Second, Peter understands that while men may not have foreseen the need for apostolic succession to that office, God did. By Peter’s reckoning two men, Justus and Matthias, were prepared; as he said, they had accompanied the Apostles 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 (Acts 1:21-22).

Therefore, although only one man was needed to fill the vacancy left by Judas, preparation for the call to apostleship for both men had begun long ago. The same is true for everyone called to any vocation that builds up the Kingdom of God. No man suddenly becomes a deacon, priest, or bishop on the day of ordination; no man or woman is instantly transformed into a spouse, whether of another person or of Christ, merely by speaking vows. Graces are given at those moments and at ordination a man’s state is changed and all the privileges of the office accorded; however, the call to follow that vocation and the discipline needed to prepare for it come well before the administration of any Sacrament (or Consecration prayer).

What’s more, the whole process is initiated by Christ. We may be tempted to think that we choose a particular vocation and to a degree that is true for we have free will. However, remember the words of the prophet Isaiah: Before birth the LORD called me, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name (Isaiah 49:1) as well as those of Jesus in the gospel: It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you (John 15:16a). If we have truly committed ourselves to follow Christ then, although the steps toward our destiny are our own, the path is lighted by Christ, discerned in union with the Holy Spirit, and freely offered out of love for and in union with the will of the Father.

fishing-164977_640With this in mind, we can say that Matthias freely chose to follow Christ who first chose him, called him from his mother’s womb, and gave him the name, “Apostle.” That Matthias was chosen for that office by lot was nothing more or less than confirmation that the journey begun from shore had now moved out into the deeper water that he had already been called to and prepared for.

That we never hear about Matthias in Scripture again is neither surprising nor important. It is the same with most of the other Apostles. Remember why Christ chose Apostles to begin with: to go and bear fruit that will remain (John 15:16b). Somewhere, a line of bishops remains to this day that traces its origin to St. Matthias and continues to bear fruit for love of him who first called them to that glorious destiny – our Lord Jesus Christ.

St. Matthias, pray for us.

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