Feat of St. Matthias, apostle
(Acts 1:15-17; 20-26)
Eleven men make up a football team, and there are “twelve apostles.” No coach would think of sending only ten players onto the field, but is it incomprehensible that there would be only eleven in the inner group directing the early Church? Since each member of the group has basically the same function, some people may think “no,” twelve is rather arbitrary – a number whose virtues are both substance and balance. However, in the first reading today the whole community of disciples in Jerusalem obviously sees something critical about twelve. One of their first decisions after Jesus’ ascension is to name a replacement for Judas.
Jesus was definite about choosing twelve men for his core group of disciples. Although one characteristic of this base is their exemplary readiness to follow him, Jesus had more in mind than a balanced showcase of discipleship. He chose no more and no less than twelve in order to execute his mission of reuniting the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus' purpose was to inaugurate the Kingdom of God by gathering together all Israel as a magnet to attract all peoples of the earth. There would be one judge or leader of each of those tribes.
The New Testament does not mention Matthias other than in this passage. His significance is to indicate that Jesus had a definite vision of his mission and of the community he founded. This realization should fill us with confidence and joy. The Church, to which we have committed ourselves, is no happenstance but the deliberate design of Jesus. Even more significantly, our Church continues Jesus’ work of establishing the Kingdom of God with all its hope and promise.