Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
On 24th February the Anglican Church celebrates the Feast Day of St Matthias. Rather confusingly the Roman Catholic Church celebrate his life on 14th May, but it does explain why his name appears in my diary in two places! Why do I mention him here? Because I are reading Acts 1:15-26 at Mass next Sunday.
So who was St Matthias and what do we know about him? The short answer to that is very little beyond a couple of references to him in the passage from Acts of the Apostles that I am to read. Indeed, the general consensus is that ‘all further information concerning his life and death is vague and contradictory.’ Anyway let us look at what we do know to see what lesson we might draw from it.
It seems that in the days following the Ascension St Peter called together one hundred and twenty followers of the Way to choose someone to fill the place in the Apostolate previously held by Judas Iscariot. Two names were put forward, Joseph called Barsabas who was surnamed Justus and Matthias. Matthias, whose name is derived from the Hebrew Mattithiah signifying ‘gift of Yahweh’ had been one of the seventy disciples of Jesus who had been with Him from His Baptism by John to the Ascension and was thus well qualified for the role. We know nothing of Joseph’s qualifications. After prayer for God’s guidance as to whom they should choose, lots were cast. The lot fell to Matthias.
This seems to be a simple administrative exercise, to fill a vacant post, so what lesson can we draw from it, if any? I invite you to study the Bible passage for yourselves with prayer to come to your own conclusions. However I offer you this thought.
Judas Iscariot was a man with the same human strengths and weaknesses that all humanity has. Despite his position as an Apostle, he betrayed his trust by yielding to temptation, seeking to enrich himself with earthly wealth wherever he could. Yet his greed came to nothing, as even he realised at the end. Like Judas and the rest of us, Matthias was only human; and which of us can say honestly that we have never been faced with temptation of some sort or another? True he was a faithful disciple of Jesus but he was still just a man. Yet God guided the assembly to appoint him to take Judas’s place in the Apostolate, or bishoprick as the King James Version has it, a very senior position indeed.
Now despite everything that had happened, humanity’s betrayal of God by crucifying His only Son, the message I take from this reading is that God was forgiving mankind and giving him a second chance. Read again Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).
This week’s question then is: What are you going to do with the second, third, fourth or seventy times seventieth chance God has given you?
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years