February 24: Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle
Morning Office Readings: Psalm 80; 1 Samuel 16:1-3; 1 John 2:18-25
Still. We all like to be chosen, and when we aren’t, there’s bound to be some residual heart soreness, no matter how healthy our self-esteem is. I think of David’s seven brothers in our passage from 1 Samuel, whom Samuel scrutinizes and rejects one by one as “not the one”—the man destined to be the Lord’s anointed. I’m not sure any of them really understood what the scrutiny was all about, but I would bet they understood being rejected, especially when they learn it’s their baby brother David who is chosen over them. And if they didn’t have any rear-view mirror perspective of God’s working out a larger plan for the history of God’s people, the seemingly arbitrariness of David’s selection must have been doubly painful.
I prefer the story of Matthias, the replacement apostle for Judas, whose feast day we celebrate today. Do read it, in Acts 1:15-26. Much has been made of how little we know of Matthias, how he, like others in the Bible, disappears from the pages and so is held up as an exemplar of unknown and unheralded service. What I like about the story is that it’s a story of faithful communal discernment. The other eleven disciples, led by Peter, devote themselves to much prayer and reflection about clear criteria for how a new number twelve will be chosen—in other words, they listen to God, who knows everyone’s heart; determine that this person should have had been part of Jesus’ public ministry from beginning to end; and make clear that the one selected will be, like them, a witness to Jesus’ resurrection. There are two apparently deserving candidates, so on this day when we remember Matthias, we also should remember Joseph called Barsabbas also known as Justus—he was the one not chosen.
Lent is a good time for paying attention to heart soreness, especially if that soreness is related to feelings of disappointment, sense of failure, or resentment. If we think we’re inured to such feelings—“Oh, well”—Lent is a good time to check that out with someone we trust. Lent also is a good time for doing discernment, preferably with others, about important next steps. The promise from scripture, in both 1 Samuel and Acts 1, in these stories about people getting chosen and not chosen, is that God looks upon and knows our hearts. Show us what you know of our hearts, Lord, and show us way forward in this pilgrimage called Lent.
Almighty God, who in the place of Judas chose your faithful servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve: Grant that your Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(image is “Samuel Anoints David” from the 3rd century synagogue in Dura Europos, Syria)