Today is the Vigil (the night before) of the feast of St Matthias. After Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, and subsequently died his own tragic death, Matthias was the dude who got picked to replace Judas. And what’s interesting about his appointment is that he’s the only Apostle who was chosen in the in-between time, after the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, but before the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The first twelve, (well, eleven, once Judas was out of the picture) were picked personally by Jesus. And later Apostles like St Paul were called in the post-Pentecost era of revelation and inspiration. But Matthias was a replacement for someone else, and he was called in the in-between times. I wonder whether he isn’t the perfect inspiration for the in-between times of these pandemic days, and a reminder not to allow the current stresses to rob us, either of our own confidence, or of the days of our lives that we are standing in right now.
How did it felt to be chosen as a replacement disciple? I often wonder whether he was simply thrilled at being chosen at all, or whether his confidence was chipped away at by nagging doubts about why Jesus had not picked him the first time around. Did he ever feel a bit left out in this tight-knit crew, was there a bit of festering resentment that he was ‘second choice’ or B-list, or did he suffer from impostor syndrome, with every less-than-remarkable day making him doubt whether he was really up there with the ‘proper’ apostles? I guess we’ll never know – but we do know how we feel when we are called to stand in for someone else who can’t make it. Matthias is an inspiration to face down impostor syndrome with guts and gratitude: no matter how I got here, I’m going to enjoy being the luckiest person in the world.
But he’s an inspiration also to live in the present. These pandemic days are in-between times; we can’t go back to where we were before, and we don’t know what life will look like on the other side of this. Like the apostles between Ascension and Pentecost, we are caught between the loss of a familiar past, and the uncertainty of what the future will bring. And it’s the hardest thing in the world, when that happens, not to wish away the life that you have. Matthias is the saint of the in-between times, and is an inspiration to grab each day with both hands, and not allow the difficulties, pain, frustration and anxiety to rob us of living that day.
Barbara Brown Taylor wrote “Most of us spend so much time thinking about where we have been or where we are supposed to be going that we have a hard time recognizing where we actually are. When someone asks us where we want to be in our lives, the last thing that occurs to us is to look down at our feet and say, ‘Here, I guess, since this is where I am.’ ” It seems an odd idea to say, mid-pandemic, that this is where I want to be. But perhaps the days will be richer and brighter if, instead of wishing for whatever the future might bring, we say instead that where I want to be is where I am right now.