One of the many pieces of wisdom passed to me by my grandmother was about simply remaining humble, staying the course, and waiting for God to do the elevating.
I am sure she gave me this advice at a time in my life when I was growing frustrated with my progress. I had graduated college, gone to seminary, and was still working as a housekeeper at a local hospital. To be certain, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an honest day’s work as a housekeeper. My years of that type of work gave me greater appreciation and empathy for those who often go unseen and under-appreciated in large systems like hospitals. However, with a bachelor’s and master’s degree, I felt a bit overqualified and under-challenged by the position.
When I think of Matthias, I like to believe him to be someone who could resonate with that experience. “The Acts of the Apostles” suggests that, while not numbered among the Twelve, Matthias had nonetheless been with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry.
While no two call stories are exactly alike, one commonality that I hear in a lot of individual call narratives is a subtle stirring that occurs years before the actual ministry itself is understood and recognized by the individual and affirmed by the wider community. If this is true for Matthias, I wonder what it would have felt like to walk in such close proximity to Jesus’ inner circle, but never to be invited that one step closer.
Nonetheless, Matthias follows. He walks with the larger group of Christ’s disciples, hearing the parables, witnessing the miracles, beholding the mystery of God-made-flesh. I have no reason to believe he grasped the mystery any more than the Twelve. He was simply there, obediently following the One who changed his life enough to cause him to follow this irresistible call until the opportunity for him to join the witness of the Apostles.
If I could utilize my sanctified imagination, I like to think that he had a grandmother who once told him “remain humble, stay the course, wait for God to elevate you.”
So much of what it means to follow Jesus is about possessing a deep, inner stillness, what the Benedictines calls “stability.” That stillness enables one to be calm and less-anxious in situations that warrant frustration and anxiety. Within a wider culture that privileges words like “mobility,” “change,” “progress,” and “advancement,” I wonder if there is wisdom in stillness and patience. One of the ways I’ve learned to do this is by literally being still.
By setting aside time regularly to be still – uninterrupted, unplugged, and unscheduled – I learn what it feels like to be still even when everything in me wants to move, to respond, to check social media, or to react to something. When I tell people this and they say they want to adopt the practice. I tell them to start small. Be still for 5 minutes, then 10, then 20. In a context that seems to socialize us to respond, almost without thinking, learning to be still is something we have to work towards.
Ultimately, all of this is a projection onto the story of Saint Matthias. We are told nothing about him other than that he was with our Lord from the start of his ministry. All I know is that if following Jesus now is anything like it was then, it takes a heap of patience to do it.
A Prayer for Today
Almighty God, who in the place of Judas chose your faithful servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve: Grant that your Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
How does St. Matthias’s story resonate with your own story?