Sunday, 24 February 2013

With the Saints in Lent (12), Saint Matthias, 24 February, and the Second Sunday in Lent

Saint Matthias – a stained glass window (1567) in Milan Cathedral

Patrick Comerford

This is the Second Sunday in Lent, and the Year C readings in the Revised Common Lectionary for today [24 February 2013] are: Genesis 15: 1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3: 17 - 4: 1; Luke 13: 31-35 or Luke 9: 28-36.

We are just four weeks from Palm Sunday [24 March 2013] and in the Gospel reading this morning we hear about Christ’s plan to set out for Jerusalem, knowing that on his arrival he faces certain death.

The feast of Saint Matthias was first placed in the Calendar of the Western Church in the 11th century, usually falling on 24 February but on 25 February in leap years. The Book of Common Prayer liturgy celebrates Saint Matthias on 24 February.

After Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church moved his feastday to 14 May to avoid celebrating him in Lent, and to give the opportunity to remember him on a day nearer to Ascensiontide.

In the Calendar of the Church of Ireland in The Book of Common Prayer (2004) and in Common Worship of the Church of England, he is now celebrated on 14 May, although Common Worship allows him to be celebrated on 24 February, and this date is also kept in the calendars of the Episcopal Church and in many parts of the Lutheran Church.

The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates his feast on 9 August.

The Acts of the Apostles tells us that Saint Matthias was chosen by the remaining 11 apostles to take the place Judas Iscariot following Judas had betrayed Christ and died by suicide.

The calling of Saint Matthias as an apostle is unusual for he was not called personally by Christ, for his calling takes place after the Ascension and before the Day of Pentecost. Indeed, there is no earlier mention of Saint Matthias among the disciples in the Gospels.

According to Acts 1, in the days after the Ascension, the assembled disciples, who numbered about 120, nominated two men to replace Judas, Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed: “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” They then cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; and so he was added to the eleven apostles (Acts 1: 23-26).

There is no further information of Matthias in the New Testament. Clement of Alexandria says some identified him with Zacchaeus; the Clementine Recognitions identify him with with Paul’s companion Barnabas or with the Disciple Nathaniel in the Gospel according to Saint John. .

Other traditions say he first preached the Gospel in Judaea, then in Aethiopia or Colchis in present-day Georgia, where he was stoned to death in Colchis.

Yet another tradition says he preached the Gospel to “barbarians and meat-eaters in the interior of Ethiopia,” died in Sebastopolis and was buried near the Temple of the Sun. Another story says he was stoned in Jerusalem, and then beheaded, although Hippolytus of Rome says, Matthias died of old age in Jerusalem.

Consider how Saint Matthias is unnamed before his call, and there is no further mention of him in the New Testament. He is the forgotten apostle. Having made an unexpected entrance on the stage, he walks off the scene once again, and we hear nothing further about him, we have no more information about him.

Sometimes, even his name and his identity are confused. Sometimes he is confused with Matthew. But he is also confused with Bartholomew, one of the original Twelve, because in the Syriac version of Eusebius, he is named throughout the text not as Matthias but as “Tolmai,” and the name Bartholomew means Son of Tolmai, who was one of the original Twelve.

Although Matthias was not among the original Twelve, Clement of Alexandria says the apostles were not chosen for some outstanding character, and certainly not on their own merits. After all, Judas was chosen as one of the Twelve, and even among the others Peter denied Christ at the Crucifixion, while Thomas at first denied the Resurrection.

The apostles were chosen by Christ for his own reasons, and not for their merits. If Matthias had not been worthy of being called, how then could he have joined the Twelve at a later stage?

Ordained ministry is never about my worthiness, my merits. I have earned no right to be called to ordained ministry, to share in the priesthood of the Church. It is Christ alone who calls us. Matthias was elected not because he was worthy but because he would become worthy. Christ chooses each of us in the same way.

I am not worthy to be even a poor substitute, even a second best substitute for Judas, who had his own unique place in God’s salvific plan as it unfolded.

What do others think of you?

Does it matter?

It matters little whether I am someone’s first choice or second choice, whether I am praised or thanked for my work, whether anyone will remember my achievements, whether anyone remembers me after I die, can spell my name, or find my grave. All that matters is God’s plan, and whether I follow his call faithfully.

Saint Matthias is a living reminder of God’s grace to and for us. He was “grafted in” to the company of the Apostles, not through his own merits, but by God’s grace. We have been grafted into the company of the Children of God, not through our own merits, but by God’s grace.

Collect, Readings and Post-Communion Prayer (Lent 2):


Almighty God,
you show to those who are in error the light of your truth
that they may return to the way of righteousness:
Grant to all those who are admitted
into the fellowship of Christ’s religion,
that they may reject those things
that are contrary to their profession,
and follow all such things
as are agreeable to the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ.


Genesis 15: 1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3: 17 - 4: 1; Luke 13: 31-35 or Luke 9: 28-36.

Post Communion Prayer:

Creator of heaven and earth,
we thank you for these holy mysteries
given us by our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which we receive your grace
and are assured of your love,
which is through him now and for ever.

Collect, Readings and Post-Communion Prayer (Saint Matthias):

Collect :

Almighty God,
who in the place of the traitor Judas
chose your faithful servant Matthias
to be of the number of the Twelve:
Preserve your Church from false apostles
and, by the ministry of faithful pastors and teachers
, keep us steadfast in your truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Isaiah 22: 15-25; Psalm 15; Acts 1: 15-26; John 15: 9-17.

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord God,
the source of truth and love,
Keep us faithful to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship
united in prayer and the breaking of bread,
and one in joy and simplicity of heart,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Tomorrow (25 February): John Roberts, Priest