The Feast of St. Matthias
14 May 2011
Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias,
and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles.
In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles this morning we have a powerful reminder of the origins of our doctrine of apostolic succession and a potent witness of the power of God to choose and call those whom he desires to serve him.
The call of the Lord is indeed powerful. It extends even beyond the events of the paschal mystery. We know that it continues in the Church today, not only in the College of Bishops, but in other ways as well, in particular ways, in storied ways, in ways that each of us here could relate, in very personal ways.
In other words, just as the lot of service and witness fell upon Matthias, it falls upon us.
Jesus chose his disciples personally. Who were they? They were ordinary men, sinful men, arrogant men, humble men, ignorant men. Jesus chose them from tiny out of the way places, dustbowls, fertile fields, fishing holes, and counting houses. They were weak men and men prone to fail. He called them and in his love he taught them. He taught them the true meaning of life. He taught them what was important. He instructed them in his way. In their relationship with Jesus, their daily darkness was filled with the light of missionary zeal. They became articulate, inspired, fearless witnesses of the Word, offering up their lives, their very lives for the proclamation of his kingdom.
Why? Because the lot had fallen upon them
The disciples became emissaries, witnesses, martyrs and by their witness so many others were called. Men and women and children from every culture, speaking every language, from Jerusalem to the ends of the known world heard the call of Jesus through those disciples. Called to be baptized into the life, death and resurrection of the itinerate preacher from Galilee, Judaism heard the call and likewise the Greeks. The preaching of the apostles and the witness of the power of Christ alive in them gave hope for a new life, a renewed world, eternal life, an end to the stifling stench of death and a new universal and new Catholic reality. The early Christians were inspired by the missionary prospect of His coming - to be more than they could have ever imagined. But even that was not enough.
And the lot fell upon Mathias. The lot fell upon Matthias and upon so many others, apostles and priests, bishops and deacons and thus this overwhelming, this flooding Word burst forth from the levies of its cultural and religious barriers to drown a world, thirsting, dying to hear the Good News proclaimed in every tongue, among every race, in every place. In the lot of those who are called, the ends of the earth have witnessed, are witnessing, the saving power of God, the Word of God careening down the tributaries of time and locality and flowing into every sullen place and dark corner of life.
In the sheer will of His command that prophetic preaching has shaken, with the power of an earthquake, the givenness of human institutions and its sacred vibrations have retaliated against the confining parameters of human power, human prestige, human wealth and created the possibility of making God-like the cultures of humanity offering them a new message, the message of the Kingdom.
And now, Brothers and sisters, the lot has fallen upon us to announce that message
A message that resounds against the fortresses of bigotry, warmongering, terrorism, discord, and diabolical notions of personality. It is a message that has suffered ridicule and reformation, reductionism and revisionism but it cannot be silenced, never muted, neither destroyed but rather, that Word is still heard today…
Brothers and sisters the lot has fallen upon us to announce the Good News of Our Lord, our Savior and the mandate of the Holy Gospel is clear: Love one another
Love one another in the desperate and cowering, the outcast, the forgotten and the bullied.
Love one another in your own families, communities, suffering brothers and sisters. The sick and the spiritually fractured. Wanderers and immigrants, the lost and uncertain.
Love one another in mothers desperately fearful that they cannot feed their children, in fathers in search of useful jobs to free their families from the yoke of marginalization, in children abused and jaded by life so early, so terribly, yet so truly.
Love one another in the flood victims of the south
The citizens of tiny, yet noble towns in Mississippi, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Indiana,
Love one another in the rich and the overtly powerful
The exhausted and the athletic
The desiring and the complacent
My brothers and sisters, men and women and children desperate to experience the Love of Christ are calling out to us – Can you not hear their voices?
They call to us, not in theories or ideals, learned in the classroom, but from the streets and byways of anonymous refuges.
They cry and lament, despairing for lack of a hearing, despondent in damnable hopelessness, desperate for some glimmer of light, a twinkling of meaning in the dark landscapes of chaos.
And thus the lot has been cast and we have to go to them, we are compelled to go to them, obligated to reach out to them, bound to cast our lots with theirs.
In the name of the Lord Jesus.
That name that…
Rings out across human history and wrestles the viciousness, the perfidiousness of indifference.
That name that brightens the sights of the miserable, the cast off, the homeless, the neglected poor, and the dying
That name that lilts like the tune of “Love itself” on wearied ears that long to hear songs of peace in a world in which the base babble of war and the pulsating perniciousness of poverty unfailingly croak their disparate melodies.
That name is heard, will be heard, in every place across the globe because of men like our graduates today who have heroically answered the call and have accepted their lot to serve the Church as priests, because of men and women like our graduates today who will selflessly minister to the Church as laypeople.
Brothers and sisters they are called, and we are also called, in our place, in our ways
We are called to be martyr witnesses
We are called to the wrecklessness of conversion
We are called to the danger of discipleship
We are called to be Saints
Saint Meinrad is just such a place of witness, of conversion, of discipleship, of holiness. Whether we are here for graduation, for formation, for a lifetime, all of us have experienced it in one way of another …
We came here, ordinary men and women, sinful men and women, arrogant men and women, humble men and women, ignorant men and women. Jesus chose us from tiny out of the way places, dustbowls, fertile fields, fishing holes, counting houses. They were weak men and women, men and women prone to fail. He called us and in his love he taught us. He taught us the true meaning of life. He taught us what is important. He instructed us in his way. In our relationship with Jesus, our daily darkness was filled with the light of missionary zeal. We became articulate, inspired, fearless witnesses of the Word, offering up our lives, our very lives for the proclamation of his kingdom.
Today in the call spoken in so many voices we hear the singular voice of Jesus pleading with us: My brothers and sisters, the lot has fallen upon you. Be witnesses, martyrs, evangelists, prophets, teachers, apostles.
How will you do it? In my power, with my authority, by my witness, in my boldness, by my grace.
There is no doubt; the lot has fallen upon you, upon us.
If there is anything I hope our graduates take away from here today, it is the conviction to not only accept your call but to embrace it, continue to expand it, sanctify it and see in that unique call your only hope, your life, your breath, your food, your energy, your song, your stay, and your lasting peace.
Saint Meinrad has prepared you and the power of this place has one source, that which we celebrate here, now.
Here we inculcate a new reality, an everlasting res not only in the bread and wine, but in ourselves.
My dear graduates, brothers and sisters, after today we may never meet again in this holy place. But in our individual spheres we will witness - as we witness here - the daily miracle of God’s presence that binds us together, that gives us the courage, strength and will to rise up and see the glory of His wonder-working power, even as we move from this place to another place and another place after that, as we wander the earth as pilgrims of the promise until at last the roll is called and we discover ourselves bound on that final journey and the saints of God, gathered on that shore will show us to another hillside where we will find our great reunion day– After all, has he not promised His salvation to those who accept the call: The lot has fallen upon you. Love one another.