The Feast of St. Matthias

The feast of the Apostle Matthias is celebrated in some traditions on May 14 and in others on February 24.

Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus– for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the book of Psalms,

`Let his homestead become desolate,

and let there be no one to live in it’;


`Let another take his position of overseer.’

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 must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have 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 added to the eleven apostles.

Acts 1:15-26 (Feast of St. Matthias)

By Luiz Coelho

The story of St. Matthias’ election as an apostle was one of the biblical stories that intrigued me the most when I was a child. I often asked myself why Jesus had chosen Judas in first place, knowing that he would hurt him so much some years later. If he had called Matthias in the beginning, there would have been no betrayal. “Jesus would not have had to suffer the way he did. He could have just ascended into Heaven after finishing his mission on Earth,” I used to think. After all, I loved (and still love) Jesus too much to imagine him suffering.

Curiously, I also have a Matthias in my own life: Matthias is my step-grandfather. Like the apostle, he became a member of my family after the “other ones”: Matthias is my grandmother’s second husband, and therefore, not my biological grandfather. In fact, I never met my “true” grandfather; he died years and years before I was even born. Matthias was the only grandfather that I knew. He was the one who cuddled me, laid me on his lap and played with me during my childhood. And that also made me wonder: “why, if it was in God’s plan for me to have him as my grandfather, didn’t he meet and marry my grandmother in the first place?

People often ask themselves similar questions. “Why did it happen, if it wasn’t supposed to be?” “Why the pain, the sorrow, the change of plans, the deception?” I often catch myself thinking about going back in time and changing things in order to prevent happenings that ended up in failure. I don’t think I’m alone in such fascinations. There is even a hobby, called “Alternative History”, that seeks to propose alternative versions to some chapters of world history, if certain events had not happened.

I wonder whether or not those early disciples who gathered in Jerusalem 2000 years ago to elect a new apostle had similar thoughts. Even after seeing the risen Christ, some of them probably still questioned their new experience of Jesus, and I imagine some grieved to have Jesus taken away from them. They were human beings after all! However, they trusted God and moved on; they listened to the Holy Spirit’s voice and, gathered in prayer, cast lots to determine who God had chosen to help lead the Church through those difficult times.

And, they succeeded. The Gospel message spread, more and more people heard about the Good News of God in Christ. Matthias was a blessing to the Church. He planted Christ’s message in the Caucasus, and has been respected and venerated by many faithful around the world.

Like the earliest disciples two thousand years ago, we are also called to move on, to discern the Divine will, to seek to conform our lives to it, and to proclaim God’s redemptive message – even in the midst of daily sorrows that fill us with despair, make us question our discernment of the Divine will and lead us to wonder how the world around us would be with the absence of suffering and sorrow. The Church is also called, as the Beloved of Christ, to struggle for truth and integrity- a calling from which God will not repent, even though we have a history of betrayals, negligence and hatred towards God’s children, and even Jesus himself!

However, when we the Church humbly gather together in prayer and submit our will to God Almighty, the master of time and space, there is room for healing transformation. We do not need time machines or alternative histories; we only need the serenity of knowing that what was meant as evil against us can be redeemed by God and transformed for our good, and can become a joyful opportunity for us to learn how to follow the Divine guidance.

St. Matthias, pray for us, so that we can be God’s representatives in this broken world. Amen.

Luiz Coelho, a seminarian from the Diocese of Rio de Janero, spends part of the year in the BFA program at the Savannah College of Art and Design. His Web site includes his art and his blog, Wandering Christian, on which he examines “Christianity in the third millennium, from a progressive, Latin American and Anglican point of view.”

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