Thomas Merton, contemplative and writer from the middle of the last century, once said, “The monk begins to live the moment he wakes up and realises that he will never be a saint and never be an abbot.” Very few of us will be any of these things, but his words have a wider application in how we define ourselves, as we reflect upon Matthias today. He was the new twelfth disciple, chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. The fact that he was not elected by a show of hands, but by what the apostles believed would be the way that God would demonstrate the divine choice, by lot, is the thing that is often highlighted upon St Matthias’ day.
Matthias gives us no reason to suppose that he gloried in being raised to this heady level in the fellowship of those who witnessed and followed the risen Christ, nor did he become a Peter or a Paul in prominence, but he was called to serve, to go forth and make disciples, and to build up the sisters and brothers of the new Christian community.
To place one’s value of oneself in God, rather than in personal achievement, meets its challenge at a number of stages in life, as we accept things that we are no longer able to do, or recognise that there are things that we fantasised about achieving, for perhaps years and years, but come to accept that we never will achieve, or - perhaps hardest of all - to see others we would consider less able being raised above us. The parable of the labourers in the vineyard comes to mind here too, as we dwell on the injustice of a situation in which individuals received the same reward for an hour’s work as those who had put in ten times the effort. Many of us struggle with this parable!
So, Matthias does have a pleasantly important role for us today, reminding us of the Church’s willingness to place things in God’s hands; to trust those whose experience of the risen Christ is placing them close to a call to a particular role, that some will be picked for, but others will not. Matthias was appointed, Justus, the other candidate disappears. Throughout life (and, dare I say, particularly in its second half!), we come to accept when we are not the one chosen, that we have failed to manage what we had dreamt of achieving, that we realise we cannot fulfil a desire that we promised ourselves we would; that there are places we shall never see, books we shall never read, mountains we shall never climb, things we can no longer do, ambitions that are ever beyond us….
…. but…… we grow in our understanding…….as we remember in the midst of these struggles which can be so sore, the Father who ever loves us, the immeasurable mercy of God, the compassion of Christ for every soul on earth, and the life, forgiveness and grace that he lovingly, and eternally, offers us from his scarred and wounded hands.