Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 14, St. Matthias

Saint Matthias
By Denise Sturtevant

Saint Matthias was born in Bethlehem, of the tribe of Judah. He is the patron Saint of carpenters and tailors. According to a Greek tradition, he preached the Gospel in Cappadocia and in the regions bordering the Caspian Sea. He is remembered for preaching the need for mortification of the flesh, with regard to all its sensual and irregular desires.

The Apostolic College suffered an enormous blow with the treason of Judas. It was, perhaps the most significant blow ever received by the Catholic Church throughout the centuries.  The place of Judas became empty. It was necessary to replace him with someone who, by his virtue would make reparation to Divine Justice, for the sin and evil committed by Judas. This new Apostle needed to be excellent along the same lines whereas Judas was evil. We should picture St. Matthias as the Apostle of detachment from material goods ant the Apostle of honesty and loyalty.

The First act of the apostles after the Ascension of Jesus was to find a replacement for Judas.  With all the questions, doubts, and dangers facing them, they chose to focus their attention on finding a twelfth apostle. Why was this so important?  Twelve was a very important number to the Chosen People. Twelve was the number of the twelve tribes of Israel. If the new Israel was to come from the disciples of Jesus, a twelfth apostle was needed. Yet, Jesus had chosen the original twelve, 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 the way to make the choice he had one criteria. His criteria was, like Andrew, James, John and himself, the new apostle had to be someone who had been a disciple from the very beginning, from his baptism by John until the Ascension. The reason for this was simple, the new apostle must become a witness to Jesus' resurrection. He must have followed Jesus before anyone knew him, stayed with him when he made enemies and believed in him when he spoke of the cross and of eating his body, teachings that had made others melt away.

Two men fit this description, Matthias and Joseph called Barsabbas. They knew that both these men had been with Jesus through his whole ministry, but which one had the heart to become a witness to his resurrection?  The apostles knew that only the Lord could know what was in the heart of each. They cast lots in order to discover God's will and Matthias was chosen. He was the twelfth apostle and once more the group was whole, as they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Tradition tells us he suffered martyrdom in present day Ethiopia, where he was stoned and then beheaded in A.D. 80. St Matthias is represented in Christian art with a battle-axe, the instrument with which he was beheaded by the Jews. Let us ask St Matthias to intercede for us and give us loyalty, honesty, detachment and equilibrium in face of the sufferings and pleasures of life with the following prayer:

            O Glorious Saint Matthias, in God's design it fell upon you to take the place
            of the unfortunate Judas who betrayed his Master.  You were selected by the
            twofold sign of the uprightness of you life and the call of the Holy Spirit.
            Obtain for us the grace to practice the same uprightness of life and to be called
            by that same Spirit to wholehearted service of the Church.  Then after a life of
            zeal and good works let us be ushered into your company in heaven to sing 
            the praises of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

I can't imagine what it must have been like for St. Matthias to replace Judas who had done the ultimate betrayal of Jesus. If he were living in our time he would have had his work cut out for himself. Our lives are always in turmoil by what we see on the television, in movies or what we hear on the radio. I think he would teach us to not get caught up in all the hype. He would have us turn our focus on the service of others, not on what we think we need. By being honest and loyal to each other we could all be like St. Matthias.

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