Saturday, February 25, 2012

St Matthias, Apostle

Acts 1:15-26 / Matthew 11:25-30

We can learn a good deal about grace from Matthias and Joseph Justus Barsabbas. Both men were privileged to be among those few of whom the Apostles could claim to have "companied with us, all the time that the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day whereon He was taken up from us" such that they too could be "made a witness with us of His Resurrection." These were no latecomers, those who had only recently come to receive Jesus. Rather, Matthias and Justus were privileged by Jesus call to hear him from the very beginning of his preaching ministry all the way through his death and resurrection from the dead, and even to his ascension into heaven. Even if not among they Twelve, they had every other qualification, save for being chosen.

Yet, it is just in this question, the question of how one might be chosen to be one of the key witnesses to the Resurrection in whom the authority of Christ came to rest in the Church, that is, to make up what was missing in the Eleven through the terrible whole made by Judas' betrayal and despair, that places before us the logic of grace. We might, on learning that the Eleven cast lots to determine who should replace the Betrayer, imagine that grace is simply random, simply the result of unpredictable forces outside of our ability to discern or command. Indeed, even as we would not be likely to toss a coin to make crucial decisions, we wonder at the wisdom of the Eleven is choosing a man for so high an office through so impersonal and seemingly disconnected a method.

However, this would be to misread their actions. In casting lots between Matthias and Justus, the Eleven reveal that they understand such an office, namely an office of grace, not to come upon anyone through human effort. Having exhausted the best of what they knew to be the human determinations available to them, namely that the man must have experienced the whole of Jesus' active ministry, they understood that the grace of being an Apostle is arbitrary in the proper sense. That is, it comes from the arbitrium, the free decision and good pleasure, of God himself. While this does mean on the one hand that there is no intrinsic merit, no reason that can be derived on the part of Matthias or Justus that could account for the former being chosen and the latter not, even as there is nothing as such in the little ones that merited their receiving what was revealed by the Son in preference to the wise and prudent, it does not mean on the other hand that there is no reason whatsoever. The reason, as Jesus tells us in the Gospel is his good pleasure: neither doth anyone know the Father, but the Son, and him to whom it shall please the Son to reveal Him.

This, then, is a cause not for anxiety, but for security and rejoicing. Why? Because the hidden counsels of the Son are those that lie in the depths of his very being, in the very essence of what it is to be God, and so while forever hidden from us in inaccessible light, they are all the same the free decisions of Love, the ground of Love, the origin and end, font and goal of every created loving. In the logic of love, we do not ask why. We do not, lest we transform the gifts of love into a mercantile exchange, ask our Lover why he loves us. To answer that his love depends merely on this or that feature of ourselves is, even in human loving, to falsify the lover's choice. As much as we "fall" in love, love is something not so much that happens to us as something that we choose, something that, in the face of our feelings and dispositions, we decide from what is within to make real or to pass it by. For God, as there is nothing in us that was not already the product of his own loving choice, of the arbitium of his love, everything, from our natural constitution to our supernatural graces, comes from the glorious freedom of divine election, the majestic splendor of Love.

This is what Justus knew as well as Matthias, what the one passed over knew as well as the one chosen. Justus knew this because he, too, had spent those many days from the banks of the Jordan past the desolation of Golgotha to the unparalleled joy of Galilee. It is in the grace of knowing Jesus and knowing his love that we can rejoice in thanksgiving for the graces we do receive and, at the same time, never even once resent not receiving the graces given to others. When we know Jesus Christ and his love, we need nothing more, for we already have more than any human heart could ever desire.

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