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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Harvey

The Apostolic Priesthood & the Feast of St. Matthias

Catholic Christians tend to recognize with ease that the first apostles were priests, sharing in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Not all will be able to justify with biblical data the reasoning behind this but that does not invalidate the truth of the issue. Such people believe it to be true because they trust in the Church and her teachings.  The “church of the living God” is “the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). “[T]hrough the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known” (Ephesians 3:10). Even these passages taken from the Sacred Page are available to us because of the Church. It was the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, that determined the canon/list of the New Testament scriptures. To return to the original claim, the apostles were priests. On the feast of St. Matthias, celebrated near the celebrations of Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost, we are given one of many details that point to the apostolic priesthood.  


Interestingly, the New Testament does not mention Saint Matthias until we get to the Acts of the Apostles. This is an interesting delay given that we are told that he was an early follower of Jesus, although not one of the original Twelve, and would go on to be part of the Twelve gathered for Pentecost in Acts 2. When they considered candidates to replace Judas Iscariot, the text gives us this criteria: “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 must become a witness with us to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22). It should not surprise us that the gospels leave out details like the names of each person that was part of the events of Jesus’ ministry. We are explicitly told that not everything was written down in the gospels (John 20:3, 21:25). Nonetheless, Saint Matthias was an eyewitness. It is in his election as replacement of Judas as one of the Twelve that we find one of many biblical details that reveal his priesthood and that of the apostolic college.  


In 1 Chronicles 24:5 we find that the Davidic Kingdom cast lots for the selecting of priests. Saint Luke the Evangelist wrote two texts of the New Testament: a gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Both open with the casting of lots. The gospel opens with the selecting of an Old Testament era priest (Luke 1:8-9), and Luke’s Acts of the Apostles include in the opening the selecting of a New Testament era priest, Saint Matthias (Acts 1:26). There are other details found throughout the New Testament that indicate the unique priestly role of the Twelve, but the election of Saint Matthias is an easy one to remember. The apostles were “servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries” (1 Corinthians 4:1), exercising a “priestly service of the gospel of God” (Romans 15:16).  

 

Saint Matthias, pray for us, and pray especially for the bishops and priests of Christ’s Church. May we also strive to renew our prayers for them and for future men to say “yes” to the call to share in this priesthood and “yes” to the call to faithfulness and holiness.

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