Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle
Acts 1:15-17, 20-26; John 15:9-17
In the spring of my senior year, the high school play was a drama with a lead role that I really wanted. When tryouts came, I nailed it. I went home confident that I had that part in the bag.
Only, I didn’t. Even worse, I got cast as what seemed to me like the play’s dullest character. At the first rehearsal my disappointment must have shown; the director took me aside and said, “I could have given you the lead, but it came too easy to you. The guy who got it needs the challenge. As for you, the part I gave you is going to make you work. Now, I want to see what you do with it. Show me you’re the actor you want to be.”
It turned out that he was right about both of us. There was a depth to my part that I hadn’t seen, and it did make me work. Same for the guy in the lead role; he struggled but kept working. In the end, the director was happy with both of us, but honestly I think we were happier with ourselves. We got exactly what we needed, and the play was better because of it.
I remembered that while meditating on the first reading. Two men were proposed to fill the role of the twelfth apostle; as we know, the lot fell upon Matthias (Acts 1:26). I asked myself how I would have reacted if I were Barsabbas. As with the play, I might have been disappointed. “I, too, was with the apostles from the beginning… why was I not chosen?”
Of course, if I were Barsabbas, I would have known that Christ had already answered that when he said, It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain (John 15:16).
In that one sentence, our Lord said it all. It wasn’t that one man was chosen and the other was not; both were chosen, but each given different parts. Clearly, the office of twelfth apostle had been reserved for Matthias; to him and him alone went that honor, challenge, and responsibility, as well as every grace he would need. But that didn’t mean that God had nothing for Barsabbas to do. To the contrary, he too had been chosen, and given his own unique and important part to play. We have no idea what it was; like Matthias and so many others throughout history, his work remains a mystery. But also like them, the fruit of his labor remains to this day – we, the Church, now spread to every corner and people of the world.
God’s plan for discipleship is no different today. We may think of evangelization, or preaching the gospel, as the proper work of professionals – people who are qualified by their training or education in the faith. But our Lord’s words in the gospel are a reminder that God doesn’t choose the qualified, He qualifies the chosen. And we are all chosen; whoever we are, whatever we do, whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, God has chosen us, called us by name, and qualified us with every gift and grace we need to bring the world to him and him to the world.
Of course, we will all face challenges along the road. People may reject us, we may struggle with doubts or periods of discouragement, and we may even be jealous of those who have gifts and abilities that we do not. But I firmly believe that each challenge is God’s way of saying to us, “I could have made your way easier, but I want to see what you can do with what I gave you. Show me that you are the disciple I have called you from all eternity to be.” It means that we will work harder than ever before, but think how much better off we will be in the end, for then we will hear our Lord say, Well done, good and faithful servant… Come, share your Master’s joy (Matthew 25:21).
Who wouldn’t want that part?