THE LOT FELL ON MATTHIAS, AND HE WAS ENROLLED WITH THE ELEVEN APOSTLES
(A biblical reflection on THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER [YEAR B] – 16 May, 2021)
First Reading: Acts 1:15-17,20-26
Psalms: Psalm 103:1-2,11-12,19-20; Second Reading: 1John 4:11-16; Gospel Reading: John 17:11-19
The Scripture Text
In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said, “Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was allotted his share in this ministry.
For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it’; and ‘His office let another take.’ So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when He was taken up from us – one of these men must become with us a witness to His resurrection.” And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two Thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:15-17,20-26 RSV)
Some people think they see God’s presence clearly in spectacular calamitous events. The memory of a near accident or disaster usually triggers statements such as “God was with me”, “The good Lord is trying to tell us something”, etc. Why don’t we see His presence more in the calm, uneventful happenings of each day? For me, personally, floods, fires and blizzards hide rather then reveal Him. The severe storm at sea frightened the apostles, so they awakened Jesus and He quieted things down. His presence was in the calm, not the storm (see Matthew 8:24).
Our prayer life also can be very private and quiet yet extremely effective, as we kneel or sit peacefully, offering up unvoiced thoughts to God. Patience and wisdom tell us not to expect immediate answers to prayer in the form of personal visions and wonders, but in the ordinary unfoldings of daily life.
The election in today’s reading from the “Acts of the Apostles” disappoints those who only like dramatic religion. It’s too simple! The story tells how the eleven apostles were seeking a replacement for Judas, and Matthias and Joseph (Barsabbas) consented to be candidates. The Eleven offered a short common prayer and drew lots – the choice was Matthias. The Church celebrates the feast of Saint Matthias every May the 14th.
Now is that any way to choose an apostle? The whole thing is embarrassing, reminding one of the state lottery or of drawing raffle tickets at the parish festival. Sorry! Had God wanted to be dramatic, Paul would have been chosen as the new number twelve, not the unknown Matthias. That would have been a story full of action, power and holy symbolism. Imagine how it would read.
God personally and publicly appeared to Paul in the middle of the road at high noon. The fiery, intelligent persecutor of Christians squirmed helplessly in the dust, having been struck blind by the Almighty. On the spot he was born again, accepted the Lord, had his sight restored, and joined the very group he was trying to destroy, not only as a member but as a leader – one of the Twelve. How unfortunate was Judas’ defection but how marvellous of God to send Paul to take his place. It reminds one of the fall of Adam occasioning the coming of Christ. Speculation could run wild with all the divine lessons the good Lord was trying to tell us.
Luke, however, tells the real story. The famous Saint Paul did not receive the appointment as one of the Twelve, but Matthias did – all without flare or excitement. Did God miss a teachable moment? No! But we might! He is teaching us to see the genuine value of common people and ordinary events. Not many are blessed with the superior qualities of Saint Paul. Most are of the calibre of Matthias – simple, quite people who work hard and do not make the headlines. Regardless of how we would like the script to read, it is God’s story to tell, not ours. Whether knocked to the ground or chosen by lot, He will pick apostles His way.
My ears have never heard the Master’s voice. I have neither seen my name in the clouds nor been blinded by His glory; but by God, I have been chosen as truly as Paul and so have you. Like saint Matthias, we should be proud of it.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, You teach us to see the genuine value of common people and ordinary events. Not many of us are blessed with the superior qualities of Saint Paul, but we understand and believe that you will pick your apostles Your way. Lord God, make us all effective ambassadors for Christ. Amen.
Jakarta, 15 May 2021
A Christian Pilgrim