We remember the story of Judas Iscariot well enough: the betrayal, the suicide, the purchase of the Potter’s Field; but also his constant presence with the Lord, his care for the material goods of the infant church, the easy temptation to despise and condemn the extravagant gesture of Mary who anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive perfumed oil (John 12:1-8), the concern for the poor… Not a bad man, but one lacking wisdom and humility.
Without him, the Church was an Apostle short. Jesus did not replace Judas – I agree with the artist at Strasbourg Cathedral who has the Lamb of God releasing Judas from his tree, an Apostle still in Jesus’ eyes – but the Apostles decided to make up the dozen again. They wanted to strengthen their group by adding an eyewitness:
with us all the time that the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, until the day wherein he was taken up from us, one of these must be made a witness with us of his resurrection. And they appointed two, Joseph, called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. Acts 1:21-23.
Matthias was chosen by lot, as the two men were equally worthy. And then we hear no more of Matthias, either in Acts or in the Epistles. Why? Well, along came Pentecost, and the Apostles scattered to tell the Good News to the whole world. Matthias is believed to have ministered around the Black Sea in Georgia and to have been martyred there.
The Church faced new challenges in those early days. First to make up numbers to maintain the structure of twelve Apostles set up by Christ, but then to abandon that structure, for most of the twelve to abandon Jerusalem, and to establish new structures in Egypt, Asia Minor, Macedonia, Italy, Georgia …
Which structures are we being called to renew, which to abandon? Which new ideas are we called to nurture? Let us pray that the Spirit, who came down on Matthias with the rest of the Apostles and more than a hundred other women and men, will fill the hearts of us the faithful and kindle in us the fire of love and wisdom.
Pentecost by TJH