“The Exhortation to the Apostles” by James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

” In the glamour of the Easter, it’s easy to be a follower of Christ. But He is calling us to get to work.”

The timing of Saint Matthias’ feast day is ideal this year. We are beginning our transition from Easter back into Ordinary Time. We either just celebrated the Ascension or are about to do so, and Pentecost novena has begun.

The fifty days of Easter are peppered with extra “alleluias,” as we relished the word that had been gone for so many days. By Ordinary Time, we’ve become accustomed to it. We stop repeating it in the liturgy, and it has become normal again. The Easter hymns have been put away, and we have returned to singing our usual songs. The sprinkling Rite at Sunday Mass is no longer common. In many ways, the glamor of Easter is gone, and we’re returning to the monotony of Ordinary Time. The fifty days of Easter – of eating breakfast with Jesus, learning from Him when He decides to drop by, listening to Him speak of the Kingdom – is about to transition into the rest of Acts of Apostles. It’s time to get to work.

And thus today we celebrate the feast of St. Matthias. His feast day was changed after the 1969 revision of the General Roman calendar so that it would fall close to the Ascension. This year, it’s perfect. The universal Church celebrated the feast of the Ascension yesterday, and immediately we see the Apostles getting to work. 

Too often, the Apostles get a bad rap for being in the Upper Room before Pentecost. Teachers and preachers occasionally confuse two Upper Room gatherings – John 20:19 and Acts 2:1. In the first instance, the followers of Jesus were gathered in fear. In the second, they were gathered in prayer and obedience. Jesus commanded them to return to the city and wait for the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49). But while they were there, they didn’t just wait and pray. They listened and acted. And they chose Matthias.

Jesus chose twelve men to follow Him in a different way than the multitudes or even the many other disciples. After his Ascension, it would be easy and comfortable to remain eleven, as Jesus had left it. Perhaps it would even seem correct; Jesus didn’t choose a twelfth when He was with them in the forty days after Easter. Why should Peter?

This is Peter’s first act of leadership, even before receiving the Holy Spirit. He made a decision as vicar, a decision essentially as Jesus in His absence. Until now, Jesus had chosen his twelve. Now Peter was making the decision – we will replace Judas.

The Church is getting to work. It might be comfortable, easy, and tempting to simply remain as Jesus left us. But that’s not what He wants. He wants us to get to work in His absence. He desires us to evangelize and open the community up to others, like the Gentiles. Jesus wants the Apostles to make decisions about those new members of the community. He wants them to go to the ends of the earth, which will require preaching His teachings in different languages and using different parables than the ones He taught (see Acts 17:22-28). Would it be uncomfortable? Of course. Would there be challenges and doubts? Naturally.

Jesus trusted them. Why He did might be a head-scratcher! But He chose to work on this earth for three short years and then leave the Church in the hands of these men. It would require power from the Holy Spirit, but it would also require some hard work.

We might be tempted to remain in the Upper Room. Perhaps we desire to prolong the days of Easter, when we were learning from the Lord and eating breakfast with Him. In the glamour of the Easter, it’s easy to be a follower of Christ. But He is calling us to get to work. It will be uncomfortable and challenging. There will be disagreements and disgruntlement. We may often fall into the trap of seeing only the monotony of Ordinary Time rather than opportunity it holds. But He has given us the marching orders – and the power of the Holy Spirit to do it.

Saint Matthias, pray for us.

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