Feast of St. Matthias, apostle
(Acts 1:15-17.20-26; John 15:9-17)
Eleven men make up a football team, and there are “twelve apostles.” No coach would send only ten players onto the field, but is it unthinkable that there would be only eleven in the inner group directing the early Church? We might say “no,” but in the first reading today the community of disciples in Jerusalem evidently considers it critical that there are twelve leaders. One of its first decisions after Jesus’ ascension is to replace Judas, the lost soul.
Jesus was definite about choosing only twelve as his core group of disciples. He wanted no more and no less in order to epitomize his mission. Jesus came to initiate God’s Kingdom by gathering together the twelve tribes of Israel as a magnet to attract all peoples of the earth. He needed one leader for each of the tribes.
The New Testament does not mention Matthias other than in this passage. His significance is to indicate the clarity of Jesus’ vision for the church he founded. This realization should fill us with confidence. The Church to which we belong is no happenstance but the product of Jesus’ conscious design. Just as deliberately, Jesus has chosen us to constitute the Church’s membership. As today’s gospel indicates, we are his friends fully formed by his teaching and commissioned to witness to him in the world.