Acts of the Apostles 1:20-26
20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:
“‘May his place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in it,’
“‘May another take his place of leadership.’
21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
As we read in Act of the Apostles 1: 15-26, Peter has gathered with about 120 of Christ’s followers. The Ascension has just occurred and Peter is feeling the reality of what has just happened. Christ has left them and he is still not sure exactly what it all means, but what he does know, is that he needs to fill the seat left empty by the action of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal. He needs a twelfth man to fill the empty chair.
Of the names that were chosen by those gathered, they narrowed it down to two; Joseph and Matthias. After the Apostles prayed and drew lots on who they should pick, Matthias was appointed. An interesting fact that is mentioned on several different websites, is that Matthias is none other than Zacchaeus, the reformed tax collector. After Jesus had come to have dinner with him, Matthias was converted… and then later, was chosen by God to fill the vacant spot…. And on this Monday after the Ascension of the Lord we celebrate the fact that God has chosen the Apostle Matthias to preach the ‘Good News’ throughout the world.
There is a story that tells of how Matthias traveled into the heathen country of Ethiopia and was drug over rocks and beaten before he was hung from a pillar and then had his stomach sliced open. Surviving all of this, he continued on… Preaching, and suffering many trials in the name of Christ. One town that Matthias preached in was known as the “city of man-eaters.” Not only were the inhabitants of this village known for the way they tortured Christians… they were also feared because of their practice of ritualistic cannibalism. But Matthias did not let his fear stop him…Entering the town he was captured and had his eyes plucked out before being tossed in prison. He was forced to drink poison while he wasted away in prison, waiting for his captors to seal his fate.
During this time, the Lord appeared to him and said, “Be of good courage, our Matthias and be not dismayed. For I shall not by any means forsake you.” His eyesight was restored along with the other prisoners who had suffered the same ordeal. The Lord promised that He would send the Apostle Andrew to release him and the others. The Lord wanted Matthias to stay in the prison until the arrival of Andrew, so that the other prisoners would be strengthened by his preaching of the Gospel. As promised, when Andrew approached the gates of the prison, the doors swung wide open… as if of their own accord… But it was the Lord, He had brought Andrew and had released Matthias and the other prisoners… He had kept His Word to the Faithful…
After his release, Matthias traveled to many regions, returning to Galilee to preach to the Jews once again. But the Jews had become filled with anger and malice towards the Christians, and when Matthias returned, they seized him and turned him over to the High Priest Annas. Annas hated all Christians, and had already killed James, the first bishop of Jerusalem. He immediately ordered that Matthias be stoned to death. When Matthias was taken to the Jews for the stoning, Matthias said to them,
“You hypocrites, rightly did the Prophet David speak to those like you: ‘they shall hunt down the soul of the righteous man, and the innocent blood shall they condemn'” (Psalm 93:21).
After he spoke these words, two men claimed they witnessed him blaspheme and picked up stones, for the satisfaction of being the first to stone him. In the midst of hurling stones, St. Matthias asked that these first stones be buried with him as a testimony of his suffering for the Lord. Angered by his request, they not only continued to stone him, but beheaded him as well, gaining for St. Matthias, his red crown of martyrdom … his red crown of glory for the Lord.
As we celebrate the Feast of the Lord’s Ascension and begin to focus our attention on the coming Feast of the Pentecost… We must remind ourselves that Christ has not abandoned us either. We must allow ourselves to be filled with the same hope that sprang forth in those first disciples…We must know that Jesus opened heaven for each of us who believe. He bridged the gap between man and God, Our father in Heaven.
As children of God, we are much like those first disciples…God has chosen us... Each of us. We each have a calling from the Lord. We each have a vocation that God will lead us to… but only if we let Him. But first, we must pray, and we must meditate on Christ in the Eucharist, opening our hearts to His very presence… to His very Words. And we must also rely on the guidance of Our Dear Blessed Mother as well. And finally, we should seek the intercession of this brave saint, who like many of us, was living a life that was contrary to what the Lord wished for him before he experienced his own conversion. Think about it….Matthias had been living the life of a swindler… a no good tax collector who had been cheating men out of their hard earned wages. But when he met Jesus, he was so moved by His love that he converted immediately… Promising to pay back everything he had stolen … seeking atonement from the Lord, for the sins he had committed… he was bathed in the Lord’s mercy… Then after his conversion, he did not stray from serving the Lord…with all of his being… God’s mercy is there for us as well. We must remember, for those who repent… there is no sin greater than the mercy of God…
As Catholics, we need to understand that God is still calling saints out of darkness. He is still choosing His disciples from out of the world to go and spread the ‘Good News.’ He is touching hearts and converting many. Before you wonder if He is calling you… rest assured that He is. He has created each of us to be with Him in Heaven… and that is greatness…His created greatness.…for each of us. We need to have Faith and believe and then. we just need to do as He said ‘and,
“Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. (For) Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; (and) whoever does not believe will be condemned.”( Mark 16:15)