A Heavenly Second Choice

St Matthias has always been important to me. He is the man chosen by the Church to replace Judas and make up the number of the Twelve (cf Acts 1). All three things are significant. First, we see the Church at work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, confidently making choices that will determine the future shape of Christianity. Second, we know that Matthias, by his fidelity, must somehow make up for the infidelity of Judas. Third, we are alerted to the significance of the Twelve: it wasn’t possible to leave Judas’s place empty, but the apostles’ choice is also significant— someone who had been with Jesus since his baptism by John but who was not a member of the inner circle. That is why I tend to think of Matthias as a heavenly ‘second choice’, a patron saint for those of us who are not anyone’s first choice for anything, but who bumble along, as best we can, trying to be faithful, trying to do whatever we are asked, and perhaps sometimes tempted to think that we are somehow second-rate.

Saint Matthias

We know very little about Matthias’s subsequent history. He was plucked from obscurity and to obscurity he returned. We can all find encouragement in that. We don’t have to be great by this world’s reckoning to do great things. We don’t have to be known, or singled out as special, we just have to be; and in our obscurity and fidelity we can achieve the greatest of all achievements: the fulfilment of the vocation to which we are called, whatever that may be. That is worth thinking about: the vocation to which we are called, not the one we would choose for ourselves or the one we would like or dream about, but what we are actually meant to be — God’s choice, not ours.

May St Matthias pray for us all, especially those tempted to confuse being a second choice with being second-rate.

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8 thoughts on “A Heavenly Second Choice”

  1. Of course you did. Sigh. Medication messes my memory quite a lot. It was a great post today though much appreciated as always. My days are improved once I’ve read your thoughts.

  2. I remember encountering this story for the first time while I was heading to church regularly prior to my confirmation. I remembering finding it odd how Matthias pops up to be voted in, only to vanish into obscurity again, and feeling a little bit sorry for his competitor for the role! The sermon at the time focused on how fairly and democratically he was appointed.

    I like your angle on this too though. Especially as I’ve been feeling a little sore at work this last week, after coming to the realisation work that I have made a significant contribution to, that is now turning into a big exciting new project with patent application forthcoming, is being entirely attributed to… people who aren’t me. After a day of being downright furious, I progressed through to a bit of self-righteous whinging, followed by a mildly more magnanimous perspective that the people who are getting the credit have done a lot of the work too….but…

    Of course, what I should probably be focusing on is the fact that I’m getting married in a week’s time, which is rather more important in the grand scheme is things! 🙂

    • Well then, prayers for both things — your work disappointment (which will fade with time) and your forthcoming marriage which we hope will bring you both much joy for many years to come. Blessings.

  3. Your last sentence very much resonated with me, Dame Catherine. I was asked by my local authority to become a chair of governors in my local school. Having been told that I was the best person to undertake this role, I found out by sheer coincidence that a governor colleague had been approached earlier and had turned it down knowing it was going to be challenging. I felt I was playing second fiddle as it were, but did not feel second rate. I am so pleased to have been asked and am finding it fulfilling, challenging (yes) but it is where the Lord wishes me to be at this time.

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