St. Mathias, Apostle
The holy apostle Matthias was born in Bethlehem, a city of Judaea. His parents reared him carefully and instructed him in the Commandments and ordinances of God. As soon as Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, had commenced to preach the Gospel, Matthias was among his hearers, and, taking His teachings deeply to heart, he followed the Divine Master, and was thus admitted among the seventy-two disciples of Christ. He also witnessed most of the miracles which our Saviour wrought during the time of His preaching. It cannot be doubted that Christ, after His resurrection, appeared to him as to others of His disciples, nor that he was present upon the mountain when Christ was so gloriously carried up to heaven. After the ascension of our Lord he repaired, with the apostles and other disciples, into the dining-hall, where they prepared themselves, in obedience to Christ’s command, to receive the Holy Ghost. St. Peter, as the chief of the apostles, rose in the midst of the assemblage and represented to them that one of those men, who had been constant in their attendance on the teachings of Christ, must be chosen in the place of the unhappy Judas. The latter, having betrayed and sold Christ for thirty pieces of silver, had ended his miserable life by hanging himself on a tree, where, his body bursting, had emitted his entrails. The place of this unfortunate traitor, who had been chosen an apostle by Christ, had to be filled and the missing member of the Apostolic College supplied.
Two men were proposed; Joseph, who, on account of his piety, was surnamed the just, and Matthias. The meaning of the latter name is, the gift of God. To ascertain which of the two God wished them to choose as His apostle, they all united in the following fervent prayer: “O Lord, Thou who knowest the hearts of all men, manifest to us which of these two Thou hast chosen to take the place and apostolic function which Judas deserted.” After having thus prayed they drew lots, and as the choice fell upon Matthias, he was associated with the eleven apostles. On the day of Pentecost he received the holy Ghost with the other apostles and disciples, and began at once to preach Jesus Christ as the true Messiah, bearing witness of His resurrection and ascension, and openly announcing the teaching of the Saviour. When, afterwards, the apostles dispersed over the whole world to preach the Gospel of Christ, the part which was assigned to St. Matthias to convert was Judaea. He bean the work of conversion with true apostolic zeal, went through all the cities and villages of the land of Judaea, preaching and announcing Christ, and confirming, with many miracles, the truth of his words, gaining by this means many thousands to the number of the faithful. He was, however, not satisfied with merely converting them, but was also assiduous in directing them to lead a truly Christian life. St. Clement, of Alexandria, records that this holy apostle preached to the newly-converted particularly of mortification: how, in following the precepts of Christ, we must mortify our body, carry our cross, and battle with our evil desires. “Against the flesh,” said he, “we must battle and never yield to its sensual desires.”
The history of the Church states that St. Matthias, during thirty-three years, continued his apostolic labors with unabated zeal in Judaea nnd Galilee. Meanwhile, it became unbearable for the obdurate Jews to see the number of the faithful increase daily, and to observe that Jesus Christ, whom they had crucified as a malefactor, was regarded and honored as the Messiah and Saviour of the world: they therefore determined to make away with the aptotle. Ananias, the high-priest, caused Matthias to be brought before him in an assemblage of the elders, and asked how he dared to seduce the people of Judaea from the Commandments of God, and entice them to worship one whom, as a blasphemer, they had nailed to the cross? At the same time he menaced him with death, should he not desist from preaching in future.
Matthias, inspired by the Holy Ghost, demonstrated clearly to all assembled that He whom they had crucified as a blasphemer was the Son of God, the Messiah so long promised, who had risen from the dead, and who was to come again to judge both the living and the dead: adding that he would live and die in his faith in Christ. No one in the vast assemblage could refute his words, and, on this account, they became more furious against him. Ananias pronounced the sentence: “Matthias, as a blasphemer, shall be stoned alive.” The others assented to this judgment, and, seizing the apostle, they led him out of the city to the place of execution. The Saint went joyfully, thanking God for bestowing upon him the grace to die for Christ, and prayed with bended knees for the salvation of all present and for the whole country. The enraged Jews immediately seized stones, and hurled them on him until he sank half dead upon the ground, when a Roman soldier beheaded him with an axe. The Christians buried his body with great honors, and the holy Empress Helena had it afterwards brought to Rome. When, however, the Empress received, from Pope Sylvester, St. Agritius, as Bishop of Treves, she gave to him, among other relics, the seamless garment of Jesus and the body of St. Matthias, to remove them to Treves, where, to this day, they are preserved in great honor, while St. Matthias is invoked as patron of this old and renowned city.
Have you observed what St. Matthias preached of the mortification of the flesh? Read it once more, and learn that not only the religious in the convents, but all Christians, are obliged to practice mortification and to battle against the sensuality of the flesh. Those who yield too much, who allow the flesh all it craves for, and who strive only to do what is agreeable to it, deserve not the name of Christians, neither have they part in Christ nor in the rewards He has promised to His followers. Those who wish to belong to Christ must, according to the teachings of St. Paul, “Crucify flesh with its vices and concupicences” (Galat. v.). Thus acted this apostle, as well as all the other apostles and disciples of Christ. A life of luxury and sensuality has not yet opened to any one the gates of heaven. Do you perhaps imagine you will be the first? Ah! take care. Believe not the world and the Evil One when they endeavor to persuade you that such will be the case. They deceive you to your eternal perdition. Believe, much rather, our Lord Jesus Christ, who says, in distinct words: “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away” (Matthew xi.). The violent are those who do violence to themselves and their evil inclinations, who suppress them and lead a life of self-immolation. He who, without mortification, without self-abnegation, without valiantly wrestling against irregular desires, would gain salvation, must not imagine that he will thus bear away the kingdom of heaven. Violence must be applied. Therefore it is that Eternal Truth exhorts us with these serious words: “Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter and shall not be able” (St. Luke xiii.). These many are, according to St. Chrysostom, those who, without mortification of their flesh, without self-abnegation, without earnest endeavors, suppose they will go to heaven. Are you not one of that number? Will you belong to them also in future?
Today’s feast recalls to us the sad history of the wretched Judas, in whose place St. Matthias was chosen an apostle. Judas, an apostle of Christ, became the betrayer of his Divine Master–a suicide, a companion of the devil–and is now forever buried in the fire of hell. What an unhappy, what a terrible fall! But what has precipitated him from the height of his dignity into the abyss of misery? Nothing else but avarice, or the inordinate, the immoderate love of money. To receive thirty pieces of silver he scrupled not at the vilest means, namely, to betray and to sell Christ. Avarice tempted him into the blackest, the most horrible crime; from this he sank into despair, and from despair into hell.
Oh! how true are St. Paul’s words: “For they that will become rich, fall into temptation and into the snare of the devil, and into many unprofitable and hurtful devices, which drown men into destruction and perdition. “For the desire of money”–the immoderate desire of riches–“is the root of all evil, which some, coveting, have erred from the faith and have entangled themselves in many sorrows ” (I. Timothy vi.). How many thousands who have experienced this are in hell with Judas! Avarice, and the inordinate desire of earthly possessions, mislead men to make use of inadmissible, injurious, and baneful means to become rich. They will lie; they will deceive; they will be faithless; they will steal; they will rob; they will practice usury, prostitution, and injustice; they will oppress poor widows and orphans; they will pay neither earned wages nor debts; and at last they will even murder. To the use of such horrible means, to such heavy crimes, has avarice led many a man. And what has been their end? They have died impenitent in their sins, and they have gone to eternal destruction. How did they fare upon earth? What benefit did they derive from what they had amassed so unrighteously? Some of them seemed to enjoy it for a time, but, when they least thought of it, death came unawares and took everything away from them. With empty hands they went into eternity, leaving all that they possessed to others. Some have had the fate of the unfortunate Judas, of whom St. Chrysostom writes: “He committed the crime, enjoyed not the money, and lost his soul forever.” They did not even enjoy what they had unjustly amassed. At the moment they thought of enjoying it the words of the Gospel became true: “Thou fool this night do they require thy soul of thee, and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?” (St. Luke xii.) Both the first and the last of whom I spoke have rendered themselves everlastingly unhappy. That is what they got by this sin. Picture it to yourself, and be careful that you never gain earthly goods by unjustifiable means. “Take heed and beware of all covetousness,” exhorts our Lord Jesus Christ (St. Luke xii.). True, also, are the words of the Apostle: “The covetous shall not possess the kingdom of God ” (I. Cor. vi.).
Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O’Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.