Poor St. Matthias. Unfortunately, it seems he will forever be known as “the guy who replaced Judas”. My goal this week, however, is to show you that he actually offered quite a bit in service to the Church!
Not a whole lot is known about St. Matthias before he was chosen as an apostle. He was probably one of the seventy-two disciples of Jesus who had been with him from the baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist all the way to the Ascension. It seems pretty clear that he had heard much of the public teaching of Jesus in person, and was familiar with what it meant to be an apostle.
Of course, St. Matthias is known for replacing Judas as the twelfth apostle. In the Acts of the Apostles 1:15-26, he is chosen to assume that ministry and be a coworker of St. Peter. The choice came down to being between him and a certain Joseph, called Barsabas. Both were chosen as candidates because they had accompanied Jesus most of the time, but also because they were superior examples of holiness of life. The choice was drawn by lot, so as to be entrusted to the Holy Spirit, and what do you know, St. Matthias won!
Not much else is known about him, other than from legends and stories. Unfortunately, not too many of these are reliable in his case, as they are sometimes contradictory or far-fetched. Still, some are rather interesting, and probably have a basis in the truth. St. Matthias is said to have begun his preaching in Judea, but as with most of the apostles, he expanded further out. Some traditions suggest that he went to the area called “Ethiopia” (not that one, the other one) in present day Georgia (also not that one, the other one) in the Caucasus region. One story says he was crucified, while another says he preached to the barbarians and cannibals there (yikes!) before travelling to Armenia and dying of old age. Still another tradition holds that he never left Judea, and was stoned to death in Jerusalem before being beheaded. Despite these seemingly contradicting traditions, the Church continues to celebrate St. Matthias as a martyr, and I suppose that’s what matters.
Little remains of the words or writings of St. Matthias, other than some quotations taken from his work by some of the early Church Fathers. One old tradition remains, however, which is to say that the Feast of St. Matthias on May 14 is the luckiest day of the year, because…you know…Matthias was chosen by lot… (those Church Fathers are so witty). So go buy a lottery ticket on May 14 – just remember your 10%!