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Saturday, May 14, 2011

St Matthias...A Gift of God...

“…whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord's.” (Romans 14:8, Douay Rheims)

Today, I find it most appropriate to simply reflect on Saint Matthias, who was the first apostle chosen after the crucifixion of Jesus on Golgotha.  By the grace of God, Matthias, out of 120 disciples, became the twelfth Apostle, replacing Judas Iscariot, following the latter’s suicide after betraying Jesus (Acts 1:26).  While the Twelve 'apostles' were 'disciples' (pupil, followers), not all 'disciples' are 'apostles' (disciple on mission).  The feast day of St Matthias is on May 14.

This name also carries a special meaning in my heart because my late father lived by the same name.  In this journey through life, God gifted him to us.  For this, I simply cannot be thankful enough.
Though poor (but he always gave enough) and lacking in higher education (he attended night classes), my dear father would somehow provide more than enough for us, to feed us, to school us, to raise us up in faith and naturally, to always keep us (discipline) on the right path.  His nature was a lot on the calm, quiet side but for me, he remains the simplest and humblest of a companion, one who worked hard, loved us so much more than himself, even to his very last breath.  He was a cradle Catholic and this gift of trusting faith, packaged with a peaceful silence, is the most precious gift given to us.  He passed on peacefully (despite the pains of cancer) back to the Father, more than seven years ago, in the company of prayers, family, priest, bishop and angels.  God has truly been gracious and merciful to his faithful servant.

Now, coming back to St Matthias, at a glance, it seems that he is more like an afterthought, a latecomer of sorts but nevertheless, he was a disciple from the very beginning; from the baptism by John until the Ascension (Acts 1:22).  One hardly ever hears of Matthias in the Gospels or anywhere else in the New Testament.  The name Matthias means “gift of God”.

St. Matthias received the Holy Spirit, in the Upper Room, with the rest of the apostles soon after his appointment as one of the Twelve.  Subsequently, Matthias committed himself with great zeal to the functions of his apostleship; in converting nations to the faith in Jesus Christ.  Some scholars seem uncertain about Matthias’ exact activities following his appointment.

Like the rest of the apostles, Matthias was probably of a simple, quiet, meditative and humble demeanor.  Understanding this simply helps me to better appreciate my late father, perhaps a little too late.  Truly, when a person carries the name of a particular Saint, his or her life then becomes united in imitation of that great Saint and the latter will constantly intercede on your behalf.

God poured out His grace and mercy, through the remaining Eleven, upon Matthias to witness and preach for Christ.  Matthias may also have written an account of his experiences as a disciple.

Unfortunately, this piece of document has been lost to history, except for a fragment quoted by St Clement of Alexandria, “We must combat our flesh, set no value upon it...but rather increase the growth of our soul by faith and knowledge.”

Matthias represented the brightening of the darkness, the gloom, the bridging of an abyss, most of all, the beginning of a new epoch.  Matthias became the source of new joy for the dazed and depressed Eleven following the criminal and corrupted face of Judas and especially the brutal death of their Rabbi and Master, Jesus Christ.

The light of Judas, the traitor had burned out, and it had to be lighted once again by Matthias.  The dead branch of Judas had to be broken away from the living vine of Christ so that Matthias might be grafted in its place.

St Augustine shed light to the great significance that there were exactly twelve apostles.  He found a profound significance in this number, which was highly esteemed as a holy number at that time: three was the holy number of God; four, of the world.  Thus, three times four symbolically signified the work of God in the world and with the world.  The four directions of the world, east, west, north and south were called into the Trinity by baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Medieval Greek historians claim that Matthias was crucified but tradition claims that he suffered martyrdom in present day Ethiopia, where he was stoned, and then beheaded.  His relics were taken to Jerusalem by a devoted follower, Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, when she went to the Holy Land to find the true cross of Christ.  Many believe that she also had a church built to house the remains of Matthias.

St Matthias is the patron saint for carpenters, tailors and against both smallpox and alcoholism.

Today, as we ponder this, let us ask St Matthias to intercede for us and give us humility, loyalty, honesty, detachment and equilibrium in the face of the sufferings and pleasures of life’s journey.

“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 your 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 the 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 forever the praises of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.”

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