St. Matthias and the Renewal of Easter Hope – The Lord Loves His Friends

Today is the feast day of St. Matthias. The Acts of the Apostles relate that Matthias was chosen by lot to replace the disciple who had betrayed Jesus in the garden.

In chapter 18 of our Gospel, St. John speaks of Judas, who was in collusion with the Romans and the Jewish elders, and brought them to the place where Jesus was staying in the garden; the betrayal took place and the deaths occurred.

In the period after Jesus’ death the Apostles were known as the Eleven.

The Eleven. A title which causes us to pause, even today, two thousand years later. They were twelve, but then the betrayal took place. Judas hung himself; and the Romans hung Jesus on a cross. Even in those anxiety filled days after the death of Jesus, and before His resurrection, the Eleven knew in their hearts that Judas was not the only one, who had betrayed Jesus. For in cold terror they ran from the garden – they ran from the Cross – abandoning their Master and betraying His friendship.

It was only John, and the women, who had the courage to stand there and minister in silence, in tears and sobs, to their dying master. We wonder, that as they stood before the Cross, was there a crisis of trust in their own hearts? Did they wonder about the other ten who were not there? Did they wonder about their own possible betrayal? Yet, all of their self doubts and agony would be washed away through the truth of the Resurrection.

Today’s feast of St. Matthias gives us renewed hope in this, the sixth week, of the Easter season; for it directs us to the great love of God for His friends. It also reminds us that He never leaves His friends alone in their mission of building His Church.

After the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, Peter, as the great leader of this little group of friends, realized that something had to be done to fill the hole, the gaping hole, that echoed with the cries caused by the betrayal of trust,  friendship, and fidelity to God Himself.

Peter knew that this cavity had to be repaired because Jesus Himself had filled the hole in Peter’s heart. It was Peter’s realization and trust that Jesus could heal him that led to his putting the mantle of leadership back on.

Peter knew that the grace of Jesus could heal them,too, and that they could become the ambassadors of the Good News who would carry out Jesus’ commands. Their group of twelve, by mirroring the twelve tribes of Israel, could evangelize Israel itself.

So, they cast lots – because they did not think themselves worthy to make the choice of their own accord, and wanted some sign [from the Holy Spirit] for their instruction.

Matthias was chosen.

St. Matthias was a disciple of Jesus who loved much, he witnessed the resurrection, he lived in the Father’s love, he followed Jesus’ commands, and was willing to lay down his life for the Lord and His Mission.

May God grant that we have Matthias’ courage to be open to the grace of Christ and use it to  build-up His Church.

Quote taken from a 4th century homily by St. John Chrysostom on the Acts of the Apostles found on pages 1822-24 of The Divine Office volume 2.

The sacred image of St. Matthias is from the workshop of Simone Martini the 14th century painter from Siena whose style influenced the Gothic movement. Martini portrays Matthias wrapped in the red mantle of martyrdom holding  a book that is painted green. Green is the color used by sacred iconographers and sacred artists to represent hope, life, and renewal. The book he is holding is a  reference to the truth of Christ’s Gospel preached by St. Matthias. This painting is dated between 1317-1319. Maestro Martini died in France at the age of 60 in 1344.

Copyright © 2012 Deacon Paul O. Iacono All Rights Reserved