14May 14th May (Monday). St Matthias, Apostle (Feast)

What Me – an Apostle?

The first decision the apostles needed to make after the Ascension was to find a replacement for Judas. Amid 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: it was the number of the twelve tribes of Israel. If the new Israel was to be spread by the disciples of Jesus, a twelfth apostle was needed. But Jesus had chosen the original twelve, so 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 how the choice would be made. He used a simple criterion, that the new apostle be someone who had been a disciple of Jesus from the very beginning, from the baptising ministry of John until the Ascension. The reason was so the new apostle would become a credible witness to Jesus’ resurrection. He must have followed Jesus from the start, stayed with him when he faced opposition, and believed in him when he spoke of the cross and of eating his body — teachings that had made others melt away.

Two men seemed to fit this description — Matthias and Joseph called Barsabbas. The apostles 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? They knew that only the Lord could see into the heart of each. So 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 Holy Spirit to come. 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? According to Clement of Alexandria, 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 he want each of us to become?