MATTHIAS, THE TWELFTH APOSTLE (Fr. Varghese Paul, S.J.)

The name Matthias means Gift of God. He was the twelfth apostle chosen by the disciples to take the place of apostle Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus and then, he went off and hanged himself (Mt 27, 5).

After Jesus resurrection and ascension there was a meeting of the believers about a hundred and twenty in all, and Peter stood up to speak (Acts 1, 15).

Peter asked the 120 disciples to choose in the place of Judas a person to join the apostles as a witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. As Peter elaborated the necessary qualifications of the person to be chosen must be one of the men who were in our group during the whole time that the Lord Jesus travelled about with us, beginning from the time John preached his message of baptism until the day Jesus was taken up from us to heaven. (Acts 1, 21-22)

The disciples heeded to Peter. They prayed for Gods blessing and guidance. There were two disciples with the qualifications which Peter elaborated: Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. Lord, you know the thoughts of everyone, so show us which of these two you have chosen to serve as an apostle in the place of Judas, who left to go to the place where he belongs. Then they drew lots to choose between the two men, and the one chosen was Matthias, who was added to the group of eleven apostles. (Acts 1, 24-25)

Then, the disciple had recourse to a traditional method used in the election of the first king Saul. They drew lots to choose between the two men. As the Acts says, the one chosen was Matthias, who was added to the group of eleven apostles. (Acts 1, 28)

Lukes Gospel speaks about Jesus choosing 72 men. He sent them out two by two to go ahead of him to every town and place where he himself was about to go (Lk 10, 1). Tradition says both Matthias and Joseph Barsabbas were among the 72 disciples chosen by Jesus to go ahead of him during his early ministry.

Matthias name is not mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament. So we do not know about his life or his ministry after his election.

Herbert Luckyer in All the Men of the Bible has quoted one David Smith to raise doubt about Matthias election. He writes David Smith feels that the choice of Matthias was not from God. The disciples prayed for guidance but instead of trusting for divine direction, had recourse to the superstitious practice of casting lots. The election of Matthias was set aside, Paul becoming the true successor to the vacant office (p.233). We can take this just as an opinion of David Smith while accepting the election of Matthias as narrated in the Acts.

Some Bible scholars maintain according to tradition that Matthias preached Christianity first in Judaea, the present Isarel and then in Ethiopia. About his dead some tradition holds that he was martyred at Ethiopia while other traditions maintain that he was beheaded at Jerusalem.

For our veneration of Matthias, it is enough for us to know that he was close to Jesus and that he was a witness to the resurrection of Jesus.

The Catholic Church honours Matthias as the patron of tailors, carpenters and reformed alcoholics.

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