During those days Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place). He said, “My brothers, 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.He was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this ministry. He bought a parcel of land with the wages of his iniquity, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle, and all his insides spilled out. This became known to everyone who lived in Jerusalem, so that the parcel of land was called in their language ‘Akeldama,’ that is, Field of Blood. For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his encampment become desolate, and may no one dwell in it.’ And: ‘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 (Acts of the Apostles 1:13-26).
Not much is known about Saint Matthias. The first we hear of him in the Scriptures is also the last time we hear of him in the Scriptures. All we know through Sacred Tradition is that he preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Palestine region. He was so faithful to the end that he was stoned to death around the year 64 A.D. Writing briefly on Saint Matthias, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says in his book, The Apostles, “To the greatness of his fidelity was later added the divine call to take the place of Judas, almost compensating for his betrayal.”
What was it like for Saint Matthias to go from disciple to Apostle? The Scriptures speak of “his office” (v. 20) – but what does this mean? The term ‘office’ in the Greek comes from the word – episcopos (episcopacy), which translates to “overseer”, and in English translates to “Bishop.”
So does this mean that Saint Matthias was a Bishop? Yes – he was one of the first Bishops along with the original 11 Apostles. They were the first Bishops of the Catholic Church since they were “overseers” of the Gospel and the churches they developed as they spread from Jerusalem. The primary mission of the 12 “Bishops” was to preach the word of God (see Acts 7:2-6). This mission is still primary in the Church today for our Bishops.
So what was it like for Saint Matthias – the man who replaced the traitor? We can only speculate on the amount of pressure that he felt when he was chosen to replace Judas. Did others think he would betray as Judas betrayed? Would our Lord himself have chosen Matthias before he chose Judas? Is Matthias the right person for this important task?
I don’t think many faithful Christians ponder the importance of this decision by the Apostles when they hear this passage from Acts. It is a passage that is squeezed between two great events in the early church – the Ascension of Our Lord and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. However, I think it’s an important question to ask because some of us have been in this situation before.
Have you ever had to replace a co-worker that did a terrible job, but was well liked by others? Have you ever had to replace a person you did not know, but was the favorite of the students before you arrived? There is no doubt that there is great hardship in situations like these. Although the Apostles knew Judas betrayed Our Lord, were there friends of Judas’ who followed Jesus? Were they misled by Judas and eventually lost their faith in Christ because one of the original Apostles was a traitor. These are speculative questions that we may never know the full answer to, but are worth thinking about in the life of the Church.
The election of Saint Matthias teaches us two things – first, we are all called to preach the Word of God no matter our place in life. As stated above, we know very little about Matthias, but he, like many of the other apostles died a martyr’s death for Jesus Christ because of their faith in him. Second, it also teaches us that there will always be traitors (wolves in sheep’s clothing) that we must endure and protect ourselves from within the Church. These are the people who seem to be in agreement with us, but in reality, have their own agenda in mind, just like Judas. They would sell us for 30 pieces of silver without blinking an eye. We must always be on careful watch of these individuals.
Let us pray that we remain faithful to Our Lord Jesus Christ even when traitors among us seek to destroy our relationship, faith, and overall love for Him through temptation and their own Judas like agendas. Let us pray that the Blessed Mother protects us from these wolves with her mantle of motherly protection. And let us pray for the protection of our Bishops against those seek to destroy their credibility and teaching authority.