The only apostle who died before the Resurrection of Jesus was the one who betrayed him, Judas Iscariot. The mission of Judas’ apostolic office went unfulfilled, and the number of apostles fell to eleven. After Christ’s Ascension into heaven, however, St. Peter declared in the midst of the believers that another must fill this vacant apostolic office. The prince of the apostles speaks of the condition: “one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22). The lot fell to St. Matthias.
Unlike the selection of the other apostles, who were chosen directly by Jesus, the call of St. Matthias is administered by the apostles. This selection of St. Matthias reveals to us what the apostles themselves thought about what being an apostle meant. I think there are two major aspects. First, the man must have dwelt with Jesus and the apostles, not only sporadically but during our Lord’s entire public life. Second, the man is chosen by God, not by man—“It was not you who chose me but I who chose you” (John 15:16)—to become a witness to the Lord’s Resurrection. Both of these point toward what Jesus said to the apostles during the Last Supper, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15). When the apostles look for someone to replace Judas, they are not looking for one who is simply a follower of Jesus, but a friend. Why?
A sign of friendship is the sharing of secrets. Jesus himself gives this reason for calling the apostles his friends: “because I have told you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15). The apostles, who have heard these mysteries from Jesus, are empowered by their friendship with Jesus to bear witness to the Resurrection, to preach the life we are offered in Christ.
This speaks of more than just the character of apostles, however. By selecting St. Matthias, the apostles teach us all a very simple truth about the spiritual life: Jesus chooses us, calls us, in order to be our friend.
St. Matthias, pray for us, that we may learn to be the friends of Christ.
Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. (used with permission)