When television shows have been on for a while, the writers begin to run out of material. After all, there are only so many times that an episode centering around the “on-again, off-again” romance of the two main characters can be compelling. It is at this stage that the writing staff begin to rely on the celebrity cameo to keep people interested. The plots of these episodes are predictable at best: someone’s long-lost friend from high school (who has never been mentioned before and will never be mentioned again) comes for Thanksgiving and (surprise!) the character is played by Brad Pitt. While celebrity cameos are often contrived, they do occasionally make for interesting television. And ideally, the inclusion of a previously unknown character will reveal something new about one of the regular characters on the show.
Today, we’re going to pause our regular scheduled program (namely, the final post on reconciliation) as Saint Matthias the Apostle makes a cameo on his transferred feast day (it’s usually on the 24th, but Sundays always take precedence). In the first chapter of Acts, we are told that the followers of Jesus gathered together after his ascension in order to select a replacement for Judas, the one who had betrayed Jesus and subsequently committed suicide. The disciples agreed that Judas’ replacement must be someone who had borne witness to all that Jesus did and taught, and they proposed two individuals who met that qualification: Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Having narrowed the field down to two, the disciples prayed: “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship.” They cast lots to determine whom God had chosen, and the lot fell to Matthias, who became one of the twelve.
This is Matthias’ first and only appearance in Scripture. We never hear where he came from and we never hear where he ends up. This is a frequent occurrence in the Acts of the Apostles: several apostles make cameo appearances and then disappear completely from the narrative. While some may think that this is lazy storytelling, the author of Acts is less interested in what happens to the apostles than he is in what they reveal about God’s character. This leads us to ask what it is that Matthias reveals about the character of God. There are several interesting details about the selection of Matthias, but I think the most striking is the fact that he was chosen over his competition. When we’re introduced to the two potential apostles, we don’t know anything about them apart from their names. Like a popular kid in high school, Joseph is known by three names, which seems to indicate that he is a well-respected guy. Matthias, on the other hand, is known only by the name his mother gave him. If the disciples had evaluated the situation objectively, they probably would have selected Joseph, since he would have been able to use his considerable clout in leading the young Church. Nevertheless, the apostles leave the choice up to God, who selects Matthias, a relative nobody.
This story serves to remind us that God is not interested in popularity or worldly influence; God’s call transcends our human preoccupations. It’s easy for us to imagine that we are not qualified to serve God or proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. The story of Matthias, however, reminds us of the old aphorism: God does not call the qualified; God qualifies the called. As you travel through this journey of Lent, remember that God has called you to proclaim the good news by word and example in whatever way you can. Lent helps us to remember that we have all been called to be heralds of the gospel, no matter where we have come from or who we are.