Acts 1:15-17, 20-26; John 15:9-17
The Vine and the Branches
St. Matthias, which means gift of Yahweh (Mattithiah), was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. He was qualified because he was a disciple of and so he witnessed Jesus’ ministry and resurrection. Most probably one of the seventy two whom Jesus sent to evangelized (Luke 10:1ff). He was mentioned in the Roman Canon. According to tradition, after receiving the Holy Spirit, he tirelessly preached the Gospel for more than thirty years in Judea, Cappadocia, Egypt and Ethiopia. He was remembered for preaching the need for mortification of the flesh with regard to all its sensual and irregular desires. He died as a martyr by stoning to death at Colchis in 80 AD.
The martyrdom of St. Matthias and the other disciples have actually been foretold already by Jesus. Thus his martyrdom too has been a warning to many who wish to follow Jesus that they will most certainly be subjected to harassment and persecution as Jesus experienced.
His being counted among the apostles is narrated in today’s first reading. St. Peter interpreted the scripture, “His ministry let another take,” to mean that someone had to take the place of Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus and then hanged himself. But does St. Peter has the right to make the choice himself? Certainly he had the right, but he did not want to give the appearance of showing special favor to anyone. “And they nominated two,” we read, “Joseph, who was called Barsabbas and surnamed Justus, and Matthias.” He himself did not nominate them; all present did. But it was he who brought the issue forward, pointing out that it was not his own idea but had been suggested to him by a scriptural prophecy.
And they all prayed together, saying: “You, Lord, know the hearts of men; make your choice known to us. You, not we.” Appropriately they said that he knew the hearts of men, because the choice was to be made by him, not by others.
They spoke with such confidence, because someone had to be appointed. They did not say “choose” but “make known to us” the chosen one; “the one you choose,” they said, fully aware that everything was being preordained by God (this is taken from a homily on the Acts of the Apostles by Saint John Chrysostom).
But our gospel today (John 15:9-17) is about the new commandment of love of Jesus. We are to love others as Jesus has loved us. What is the essence of this new commandment? Before anything else, there are two popular kinds of love that each one of us is using nowadays according to a priest in his homily. The first is tongue love. According to somebody that one of the sports which has not made its way into the Olympics but has many contenders is back-biting. It has many names: gossip, slander, mudslinging, detraction and so on. But when we speak well of others, it produces the opposite effect of tongue love. This is precisely where the commandment of love changes everything. When we use our tongue to love and to praise the good in others, we find that we are filled with joy. And so let us never join in gossip-mongering. When somebody speaks badly of someone let us be brave enough to come forward and speak well of and defend him.
Another one is award winning love. This love is to always seeking to bring out the best in others. This is the source of patience in parents, teachers, coaches, and all those who dedicate themselves to forming others. Of course, if we want the best for the other, we want them to know and love Jesus Christ. Bring Christ to others. Certainly this would be an award winning love because of award of complete joy at seeing another soul come to know and love Christ.
But the essence of this new commandment of love is unconditional, selfless love which seeks what is good for another. A priest in his homily said that true love is sacrificial and costly. It gives all to the beloved. And there is no greater proof in love than the sacrifice of one’s life for the sake of another. Jesus proved his love for his disciples by giving his life for them, even to death on the cross. We prove our love for God and for one another when we embrace the way of the cross. What is the cross in our lives? When our will crosses with God’s will, then God’s will must be done. Do we know the joy and contentment of a life fully surrendered to God and consumed with his love?
See Today’s Readings: Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle
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