Today, February 24, is the feast day of St. Matthias the Apostle. Does he sound familiar? If you don’t remember his name from the lists of the twelve apostles in the gospels, you are correct — he isn’t there! That’s because he was chosen to be an apostle later, as we read in the opening chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. After Jesus ascended into heaven, Peter stood up among the believers — a crowd of about one hundred twenty persons — and made a suggestion. He told of the horrible death of Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus (see Acts 1:18 if you are interested in the gory details), and proposed that one of the believers be tapped to become an apostle — bringing the number back to twelve. Twelve was the number that Jesus himself chose, and it was an auspicious number indeed, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel.
Peter stipulated that the new apostle should be someone who had followed Jesus from the time of his baptism by John all the way through his death, resurrection, and ascension. Two such believers were nominated, Joseph called Barsabbas who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. They prayed to God, asking for guidance as to who should take the place in ministry and apostleship “from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And then they cast lots to see which man God chose, and the lot fell on Matthias to become the twelfth apostle. (Or perhaps it was because he had only one name to remember rather than the confusing three names of his competitor!)
And then? And then … nothing. We never hear another word about Matthias! Our tradition says that he was an exemplary apostle, but we don’t have details. It seems that he became an apostle and then quietly went about his ministry, without fanfare and without fuss. I think he makes a good patron for the vast majority of us who seek to follow Jesus. Like Matthias, the details of our efforts to live out the gospel are not likely to be told thousands of years from now. But the positive impact that Matthias made, and the positive impact that each of us can make, in other people’s lives ripples forth just the same. When next we feel forgotten, or overlooked, or under-appreciated in whatever ways we seek to help others in our lives, let us take a moment to remember St. Matthias — I bet he is cheering us on!