The lot fell to Matthias

May 13, 2021

The lot fell to Matthias [1]. Our vocation to discipleship of Jesus comes to us mysteriously. He chooses us, not we him [2]. We can feel ourselves summoned, out of the blue, from the substitutes’ bench. Suddenly things are more serious than before.

Yet Christ plants in ground that he has tilled, and harvests a crop that he has nurtured. What comes to us unexpectedly has, we discover, been long prepared. Grace has been at work in our life. The tickets for the lottery that Matthias ‘won’ were not universally distributed. He was enabled to step forward to meet a need.  He must have felt himself pushed. There was freedom but also an element of coercion.

Jesus gathers his disciples. He does so lovingly and gently. He wants to share my joy with them to the full [3]. He asks his Father to consecrate them in the truth [4].  We are free to reject his invitation. Yet we feel the pressure of his authority. He wants us to join him and his call comes with the force of a command. The truth demands our allegiance, even as it persuades and deepens our understanding. God’s truth completes our joy and fills out our knowledge. Once acknowledged and incorporated into a life, such divine wisdom is not easily neglected or betrayed. Repudiations of what we have accepted can happen but they are never trivial. Judas abandoned this ministry and apostolate to go to his proper place [5].

Christ invites us to live in fidelity to the truth and in obedience to the known will of God. He issues a genuine invitation that nevertheless has something in it of a commandment. The summons to the service of the truth comes to us from our creator. How can we ignore a call from that source? The Lord has set his sway in heaven, and his kingdom is ruling over all [6]. We can choose to be lost [7]. Or we can step forward to do that for which we have been chosen and which is our destiny. The options before us do that draw us equally: life or death; truth or falsehood; freedom or submission to evil. We are glad to lean towards and to be pushed in the direction of life, truth and freedom. We would like to accept the divine gifts. What in us resists them we would happily change.

The days between the feast of the Ascension and that of Pentecost are a time for gathering strength to do that which we know we must do. These nine days are a novena to the Holy Spirit. We are making a heart-felt prayer for all those graces which Matthias-like we need, as we allow our faith and discipleship to be renewed. It is as if we are beginning again to be active servants of the Lord. We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit [8]. We have plenty to do if our part in making the glory of God apparent in the world is to be properly fulfilled. The Holy Spirit is already energising us for all sorts of service. We seek his further help with confidence and trust: I watched over them and not one of them is lost [9].  

Jesus reassures us about his presence, help and protection. He is with us, caring for us and preserving us from trouble. Holy Father, I am asking you to protect them from the evil one [10]. The Lord shelters us from the prince of darkness, from our own wickedness and from the wrong doing of others. Love is the armour that Christ helps us to put on. God is love and anyone who lives in lovelives in God and God lives in him [11]. The Lord prays for us to be united to what is good and true and to what will preserve us in the loving way of life that he shows in revealing himself to us. We are to concentrate on the one thing necessary. As long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be completein us [12]. The simplicity and completeness of what we are undertaking do not conceal the many challenges and difficulties with which we struggle.

Jesus says to the Father: keep those you have given me true to your name so that they may be one like us [13]. The way of life into which the Spirit leads us unites us with him and with the Father and the Son. We are enabled to live united also to our brothers and sisters in the faith. In ourselves, we are unified also, finding integrity and focus. In union with Jesus we confront the suffering of the world. Our saviour stretches out his arms on the cross and embraces all who are in pain. He does not abandon those in trouble. If he seems to disappear, it is only in order to return. We await Pentecost not in disappointment but with a firm trust in the God who is always renewing his presence among us. We are sure that what will be revealed to us by the Spirit will help us to live yet closer to the One who has for a long time been in solidarity with us. Lord, you can read everyone’s heart [14]. We are being prepared to receive what we need inorder to give the service to which we are being called.

The gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit are being offered to us. We reach out towards: wisdom, understanding, counsel, courage, knowledge, devotion and reverence for God. We seek: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, mildness, faith, modesty, temperance and purity. Are all these blessings too much for which to hope? They are interconnected, but should they not be asked for one at a time, rather than altogether in Pentecost profusion? The novena of the Holy Spirit is the introduction to a vast programme of ways ofallowing the power of God to be vigorous in our life.  Everything happens at once.  Our faith aims at the fullness of life in the Spirit. The ambition of the project recommended to us so wholeheartedly by the apostles makes us quail a little. We remember who has called us. My soul give thanks to the Lord and never forget all his blessings [15]. Already, we are grateful for the strength that he confers.

The lot fell to Matthias. The new apostle accepted his summons to bear witness in faith. He was sustained by the same hope that strengthens all who long to do as Jesus asks. Matthias trusted that all would be well. He believed that that he would be helped to know what to say and to do. Confident in the transformations that the Lord is constantly effecting, he knew that he could be the sort of person who could do the work that lay ahead. He had not sought apostleship. His qualities identified him. If changes were needed, they were possible. The good news was not something he had thought up by himself. He would witness faithfully to what he had received.

Matthias was taking Judas’s place. He understood that everything could go wrong. What is beautiful, good and true can be betrayed with a kiss and for money. In the stand-in apostle there is an earnest desire not to falter. Who expects to get off lightly? Only by the grace of God will this work out. The Holy Spirit is in-dwelling.  His strengths can be drawn down. His presence is vivid and shareable. On our own we might fall into any snare. By staying close to him, we hope to be guided and protected. If we stumble, the same divine presence will enable us to seek pardon and to allow ourselves to be lifted up.

I say these things to share my joy with them to the full [16]. There is contentment in the sharing of the truth. Called to give witness to Christ, we happily step forward with Matthias. The task is daunting but the help given is abundant. Grace surrounds us with encouragement and support, especially when life is hard. Is this a deeper discipleship than we imagined earlier? Depth is surely what we have always wanted. The truth to which we give obedience is profound and sustaining.

Responsibilities, freely accepted, deliver their own satisfactions. When love and truth coerce, we submit totheir direction joyfully. We are glad that the lot has fallen in the way that it has.

Homily by Father Peter Gallagher SJ

[1]             Acts 1.26

[2]             John 15.16

[3]             John 17.13

[4]             John 17.17

[5]             Acts 1.25

[6]             Psalm (103) 102.19

[7]             John 17.12

[8]             1 John 4.13

[9]             John 17.12

[10]           John 17.15

[11]           1 John 4.16

[12]           1 John 4.12

[13]           John 17.11

[14]           Acts 1.24

[15]           Psalm (103) 102.2

[16]           John 17.13

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