Today, we get a lesson through the ages in letting go of ego. We celebrate St Matthias’ day today. Who? I hear you say. Matthias is not a very well-known saint, although where I live we have a church named after him. You can see the church in the picture to the left and learn more about the story of that church here.
Matthias was a follower of Jesus, but he doesn’t appear in any of the four Gospels. Save for a fleeting mention at the start of the Act of the Apostles detailing his choice as the replacement for Judas, we hear nothing of him at all. According to tradition, well according to which of the many traditions you read, Matthias either travelled to Greece, died a martyr or died of old age in Jerusalem.
Not only do we know nothing of his exploits, his very choosing as an apostle was less to do with his prowess and more to do with luck. He and another man, Joseph, known as Barsabbas and also called Justus (how many names does one man need?!) had been shortlisted. Rather than choosing on the basis of who was the strongest candidate, though, the eleven left it up to the Holy Spirit working through a very human mechanism- they drew lots. The lot fell to Matthias and he was counted as one of the 12- but not ever mentioned again.
I have no doubt that Matthias was a good person. And I have no doubt that, as a person who had met and travelled with Jesus, he was able to bring many people to know the Good News, but the main thing I learn from him, on this his day, is the absolute meaninglessness of our own ego, our own sense of our prowess or our own ‘name’.
These are things we can all get caught up in. We can chase notoriety or fame. We can become outraged when someone besmirches our ‘good name’. Yet, here we have a man who actually met Jesus, was counted as one of the twelve and many people do not even know his name!
Matthias could be the patron saint of keeping our egos in check! He is actually the patron saint of carpenters, tailors, people who need hope and perseverance as they struggle with any kind of addiction.
So, here’s to Matthias; the man who got the job because the lot fell to him. The man who, no doubt, did great things. And the man who did not need to be recognised for it.
(Image of St Matthias is “Apostle Matthias” by Duccio, 1308-1311. Image of St Matthias Church, Glen ROad, Blefast is by Martin McKee)