Priesthood: The Gift Continues
Today’s feast day teaches us a lot about the Church at work - and a lot about the gift of vocational discernment in the context of the community. We celebrate the feast day of St. Matthias, the thirteenth Apostle; and in the First Reading, we hear the story of how, before the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, he was chosen to replace Judas among the Twelve. Here’s the reading from the Acts of the Apostles:
Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers and sisters
(there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons
in the one place).
He said, "My brothers and sisters,
the Scripture had to be fulfilled
which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand
through the mouth of David, concerning Judas,
who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.
Judas was numbered among us
and was allotted a share in this ministry.
For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
Let his encampment become desolate,
and may no one dwell in it.
May another take his office.
Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men
who accompanied us the whole time
the Lord Jesus came and went among us,
beginning from the baptism of John
until the day on which he was taken up from us,
become with us a witness to his resurrection."
So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas,
who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.
Then they prayed,
"You, Lord, who know the hearts of all,
show which one of these two you have chosen
to take the place in this apostolic ministry
from which Judas turned away to go to his own place."
Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias,
and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles.
This story teaches us something about the Church. Peter, the recognized leader of the Twelve, the vicar of Christ, and the first pope, enunciates to the community the need that he sees. This is not simply some personal issue for Peter. Rather, he looks to Scripture and the experience of the early Church there and gives good reason for the need to replace Judas. This is a reminder to us of the central, foundational role of both Scripture and Tradition as sources of divine revelation in the Church. The second point is that no one takes this decision solely upon himself. There were nominations of those who fit the role, and then the lots were drawn to allow room for the Holy Spirit it affirm God’s choice. This also harkens to the words of Christ that we hear in today’s Gospel, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” Matthias, therefore, is Christ’s choice.
The final important point illustrated by our feast and its associated readings is that Matthias’ selection was the result of real intercessory prayer on the part of the community. They all prayed, and God’s will was made known to them. I point this out, in particular, with regard to vocation discernment, and especially priestly vocational discernment. Matthias is an Apostle - chosen to share in the same lot and mission of the other Eleven, who were commissioned by Jesus at the Last Supper as priests to consecrate the Eucharist, given the ministry of reconciliation on the evening of Easter, and the Great Commission to baptize, teach, and make disciples of the nations.
Our parishes have young men like Matthias in them. There are those who are being chosen by Christ Himself to follow Him as His priests. They are uncertain; they are afraid; they are worried about their futures in this culture. However, we can assist them in exactly the same way that the early Church did Matthias. We can pray actively for them - not for “priests” in general, but for priests from our parishes - from our communities. Jesus is calling them, and we are given the task of encouraging them and praying for them by name. Think of someone who has qualities that you admire in a good priest. Do you think it is an accident that he has those gifts? Talk to him! Let him know that you see it too, and that Jesus will sustain him in his vocation if he trusts Him.
The choice of Matthias is a great reminder that the gift of Priesthood, given by Jesus at the Last Supper, continues to be offered to the Church every single day. Let’s share in that choice with our prayerful encouragement.