The Catholic Defender: St. Matthias Comes Off The Bench to Become an Apostle
Judas Iscariot betrayed Our Lord Jesus Christ with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).
After Judas committed suicide by hanging himself, the Apostles gathered together to replace him choosing between two Candidates, Joseph called Barsabbas, also known as Justus, and Matthias.
St. Peter opened the casting of lots with this forward message, "So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us--one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection." Acts 1:21-22
St. Peter lead the prayer, "Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place."
Matthias was selected and then enrolled to join with the faithful eleven Apostles. So now there were Twelve Apostles again as Matthias took Judas's office (Acts 1:20). Matthias was an important Candidate, he was present from the beginning of St. John the Baptist Ministry and all through Jesus public Ministry. Twelve was important to the Apostles in that this represented the twelve tribes of Israel. It played with the idea that the Church was the "new Israel", the "new Jerusalem.
This election would be most important as the Catholic Church would spread throughout the world setting up parishes and dioceses placing men at every church (Titus 1:5). St. Paul would write, "You then, my son (St. Timothy), be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." 2 Timothy 2:1-2)
From this account, we can see three generations of Apostolic Succession beginning with St. Paul and the Apostles, St. Timothy's generation which certainly would include contemplates like St. Titus, St. Ignatius of Antioch, and St. Polycarp, and then the generation these will teach.
I was surprised to learn that St. Matthias was actually Zacchaeus who had climbed the sycamore tree so that he could see Jesus. He was short in stature (Luke 19:1-10). Meeting Jesus had a great impact on Zacchaeus who totally changed his life. St. Clement of Alexandria speaks to this, "Behold, half of my present possessions I give as alms, and Lord, if I ever extorted money from anyone in any way, I return it fourfold.' At this, the Saviour said, 'When the Son of Man came today, he found that which was lost" (Stromata 188.8.131.52)
As an Apostle, St. Matthias was present with the Virgin Mary and the Apostles who received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
St. Matthias would take an active role at the Council of Jerusalem that paved the clear road of grace before the Church.
St. Clement of Alexandria writes of St. Matthias who had not been chosen by Jesus for who he was, but he was chosen for what Jesus foresaw that St. Matthias would become. This can be said for all Catholic Clergy who have been duly anointed with the laying of hands (1 Timothy 4:11-16).
In St. Matthias Missionary activity, according to tradition, he first traveled throughout Judea and Aethiopia (modern day Georgia near Russia) and there he faced stoning but this never happened at least during this journey.
Aethiopia was a city of "man-eaters.", cannibals who captures Matthias. He was held down while they had thrusted out his eyes causing him to be blind, then they placed him in a prison cell where he awaited his fate. After 30 days of waiting to be eaten the Lord Jesus appears to St. Matthias saying, "Be of good courage, our Matthias, and be not dismayed; for I shall not by any means forsake you."
Jesus gave back St. Matthias his eyes which you would think that would have had an impact on the jailer? Not only did St. Matthias have his eye sight returned, so did everyone else in the prison that suffered the same fate. Jesus instructs St. Matthias to hold the line there in this prison until St. Andrew arrives to rescue him. The purpose of the Lord was to reach out to the prisoners. Upon St. Andrews arrival, the locked doors opened under their own accord freeing St. Matthias and all the rest.
About 80 A.D. St. Matthias returned to Galilee only to meet hostilities as the Jews seized him and he was brought before the High Priest of the Sanhedrin (Annas) who had killed St. James the Less, the current Bishop at the time was Simon the Zealot, but was away at the time, Annas ordered that Matthias be stoned to death, "You hypocrites, rightly did the Prophet David speak to those like you: 'they shall hunt down the soul of the righteous man, and the innocent blood shall they condemn'" (Douay-Rheims Psalm 93:21). After being stoned to death, St. Matthias was beheaded to express that he was an enemy of Rome. The Christians took St. Matthias's body and gave him a Christian burial and his Feast day is May 14.