Feast of Saint Matthias


I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another."


Some people doubt that Jesus named twelve apostles to be his inner circle. They believe he did not intend to found a church or start a new religion. That, they say, was Saint Paul's doing. Refuting that argument, Catholic scripture scholars point to the first decision of the Eleven. Even before Pentecost and the fiery appearance of the Holy Spirit, Saint Peter called them together and urged them to fill out Jesus' sacred number Twelve. After determining what qualifications the person should have, they asked the Lord to reveal his preference with the time-honored custom of casting lots. (More reliable than voting!) Matthias was chosen.
Though they did not replace Saint James when he was beheaded some time later, and The Twelve disappeared as a college of leaders, Peter and the other disciples clearly believed some kind of organization was necessary; in that case, a group known as "The Twelve."
In the next centuries, heads of the metropolitan churches, "bishops", organized and supported one another. They based their authority on the foundation of the apostles. Although "The Twelve" had vanished long before, they never doubted Jesus' intention to start an entirely new, well-organized religion. 
The feast of Saint Matthias invites us to reflect on the privilege of the Lord's friendship and apostolic communion. The word friendship is incredibly important to us and, for that reason, has been appropriated by the commercial world. If it's not Facebook's friending, and your friendly neighborhood bank, it's "man's best friend," i.e. a dog. The innocent, unaware of Jesus', may suppose the word means nothing more than that; that "friends" care only about themselves; and their crushing loneliness is inescapable.
In today's gospel, Jesus reminds his disciples, 
"I no longer call you slaves because a slave does not know what his master is doing
Without the light of Jesus' Spirit we cannot know what he is doing; nor, for that matter, what we're about. Even with the Spirit, we might not be able to put it into words. 
Without the Lord, when hardship, disappointment and suffering come our way, we wonder, "Why is this happening to me?" But in the Lord and his Spirit we can say, "Why not me?" Some good must come of this, though we cannot imagine what it might be.

And so we wait as the Twelve waited in Jerusalem, with expectation but no vision.
I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. 
We have an intimate knowledge of the Lord; he has revealed to us the meaning of freedom, the hope of forgiveness and the promise of friendship. 

Our friendship begins within the conversation of the Trinity; that is, in Jesus' "hearing" the Father. The Communion of the Saints is the mystery of the Love of Jesus for his Father, which he reveals to us from the cross and through the Eucharist. It appears in the Resurrection which the Father has given to his only beloved Son, and revealed to us.
If we suffer any illusion of having saved ourselves, of being justified by our own good works, he reminds us, "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you." Just as Jesus is begotten of the Father and not self-generated, we are called into being, life and love by his initiative.

That is so much sweeter! If my salvation relied on my own choice -- on my consistent, faithful, attentive practice -- I'd certainly be a lost soul. My existence would flicker in and out, like the signal of a local radio station as you leave the city. Instead, I am assured of his calling and appointment: he has chosen me to go and bear fruit that will remain.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.