Home » Gospel Encouragement – Sunday 16th May 2021 – 7th Sunday of Easter

Gospel Encouragement – Sunday 16th May 2021 – 7th Sunday of Easter

Dear sisters and brothers,

We are in a bit of a St Matthias sandwich at the moment.  On Friday we celebrated his feast day, when we reflected on the reading about his selection as an apostle by the Holy Spirit, and today we have the same Gospel in the cycle of Sunday readings, and maybe there is something in them coming so close together.  Maybe we are being invited to reflect on him as an apostle.

Just to remind us of the context.  We’ve never heard of him before this section right at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, but we gather that he’s been one of Jesus’ wider circle of followers from the start of his ministry, one of the number from whom the original twelve were called.  So, he’s witnessed Jesus’ teaching, his healings, his miracles and all the many amazing things that he has done.  He’s also seen the fallout from the crucifixion and then the joy of the resurrection, and would have been one of the many disciples to whom Jesus appeared.  In the light of Judas’ betrayal Peter highlights that there is now a vacancy for the role of apostle, and the eleven nominate two candidates, of whom Matthias is selected, after prayer, by lot.  After his selection by the Holy Spirit he once again, along with so many of the apostles, vanishes into obscurity.  Yes, he would have been there at Pentecost, and at the events of the early Church in Jerusalem that followed Pentecost, but we never hear of him specifically again.  Tradition tells us that he preached the Gospel in Judea initially, and then moved north to evangelise in the area from modern day northern Turkey, through Georgia to Azerbaijan, where he was crucified somewhere near the Caspian Sea, one of eleven out of twelve apostles martyred for their faith.

For Matthias, as for Peter, John and all the others Pentecost, which we will celebrate next week was crucial.  The outpouring, the indwelling, the receiving of the Holy Spirit – the same Holy Spirit whom we all have received – empowered him to go to the edge of their known world, the shores of the Caspian Sea to lay down his life for his faith in Jesus, whatever the hardship – and there must have been many – even unto death.  For me, their willingness to suffer is one of the strongest signs, in the face of so many sceptics, that the resurrection actually happened.  This bunch of weak, frightened men, who ran away at Jesus’ arrest, were willing to go to their deaths witnessing to their faith…and Pentecost was the icing on the cake, giving them the strength from within to step out regardless of the opposition they faced.

And what did Matthias and the others preach?  They preached the love of God that St John has been highlighting to us so consistently in the second reading and the Gospel over the last few weeks.  In what we read today that message, written down by St John, remains abundantly clear:

  • That God is love
  • That Jesus is God, who is love, made man
  • That Jesus came to save us from the mess that we had got ourselves into – and that we recognise that we are still getting ourselves into whenever we look at the state of the world – because he loves us
  • That Jesus works and prays for our being united as one family of love, with each and every other human being and with the Trinity
  • That Jesus sends his Spirit of love to enable us to be protected from the evil one, to choose to walk in his love and to set ourselves apart for him

This is what Matthias believed and shared, and what we, as apostles of the 21st century, are asked by the Lord to believe and share and make real in the world in which we live. Let’s pray, as we journey towards Pentecost, for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon each of us, that we might each experience the original Pentecost anew in 2021, and follow the example of St Matthias in stepping out of our comfort zones in faithfulness to Jesus.

In the words of Pope St John XXIII we pray:

Renew Your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost. Grant to Your Church that, being of one mind and steadfast in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and following the lead of blessed Peter (and Matthias), it may advance the reign of our Divine Saviour, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen.

With every blessing,

Simon