Feast of St. Matthias
Acts 1:15-17, 20-26
For this feast of St. Matthias there is an element in the sacred scriptures that we will surely find to be very fulfilling. We can only imagine how utterly incomplete and broken "the Twelve" must have felt after having one of their own betray not only the Lord but his brother apostles as well. What better way to heal that rift, that open wound, than by selecting another to take the place of the apostate Judas. And so the great Peter (himself no stranger to what it meant to be a denier of the Lord!) calls out to his brethren quoting the Psalms: Let his encampment become desolate, and may no one dwell in it. May another take his office. And so it was that Matthias was elected and played a key role in making "the Twelve" once again a complete and restored body of apostles who would guide and shape the early Church. From the very first days we see that the Church is a living body in constant need of growth, change, and healing.
How does this process of healing and renewal take place for us today as it did in the apostolic times of the early community? Our reading taken from the Gospel of John makes it so very clear. It is only love that can make us whole; it is only love that will show us how to be the people and Church we are meant to be. This wonderful section of John’s Gospel, so often read at marriages and other special community events, goes to the very heart of the Lord’s demands of us this very day. We must be a people who take seriously the most imperative words ever spoken by Jesus himself: This is my commandment: love one another as I love you… This I command you: love one another. There is nothing optional about this message! It is an absolute command coming from the mouth of the Lord.
The amazing thing is, dear friends, if we follow this command of the Lord we will be more alive, more joyful, more fulfilled than at any other time of our lives. Just several days ago I returned from assisting a large group of "malades", very ill men and women who, as pilgrims, travel to Lourdes for an experience of spiritual healing and prayer. Some were very young with illnesses that would soon claim their earthly lives; others were in the midst of a current battle with breast cancer or other diseases that would certainly demand constant care and attention that will alter their lives for ever. It was amazing to see their courage and perseverance as they suffered; it was also equally amazing to see the unconditional love of Knights and Dames of Malta and other caregivers who would see to their every need and concern. Love one another as I love you! Love one another! The words of the Lord were so very alive there in Lourdes in the midst of this amazing group of pilgrims, all of us, malades and caregivers alike, in need of healing from the Lord, just like "the Twelve" apostles in the early Church! So what difference does all of this make? The Lord gives us not only a command to love but a path that, if followed well, will lead us to a future of healing, peace, and joy. This commandment is no burden. This commandment is pure gift.
Fr. Pat Brennan is the director of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.