Feb. 24 is the traditional feast day of St. Matthias. In the 1960s, the Roman Catholic Church moved his feast day to May 14, so that we’re celebrating his life in a month that makes more chronological sense – Matthias was the apostle chosen to replace Judas Iscariot, who committed suicide after he realized what his betrayal had wrought – so it makes sense to celebrate his life after Easter. Eastern Orthodox believers will observe his feast day on Aug. 9.

I side with the traditionalists who will celebrate in late February. I like this feast day showing up on the heels of Christmastide. I need this reminder that we don’t all need to be Mary, who was tapped for greatness in God’s plan very early in her adult years.

We see a similar dynamic in our stories of Jesus. The named disciples are the ones who committed early in Christ’s ministry. Who were the unnamed ones who took longer to decide?

Of course, as someone who spent many years studying texts in graduate school, I will always wonder at what gospel revisions went on in the early church. Was the inner circle really that tight? Was it really only 12? Was it really only men? We know that Jesus had a sympathy toward women that was uncommon for his time. Would he really have excluded them from the inner circle?

Then I think of the logistics of being one of the 12 – all that travel, all those difficult circumstances. Maybe it was kinder of Jesus not to call women to be part of the inner circle. If you go back to the sayings of Jesus, it’s clear that he doesn’t see hierarchy in the same way that humans do – he clearly mocked the idea that some disciples are more chosen than others.

So, would Matthias have even seen his appointment as a promotion? Maybe it’s just our later proclivity to make lists that sees this development as a promotion. Of course, there is plenty of evidence that shows that the disciples shared our proclivities toward hierarchy and list making.

I think of Matthias, patiently waiting, following Christ, never knowing the outcome. In that way, he’s the patron saint of us all. We follow Christ, not knowing whether we’ll be chosen for some superhuman greatness or whether we’ll be called to stay put, quietly ministering the people around us.

Some of us believe that God has a plan for us, while others believe that God, like a master weaver or gardener, will use us where we are. Some of us believe that the universe is essentially chaotic, but we are not excused from God’s mission of kingdom building.

Some of us know that we cannot possibly comprehend any of this, and we know that we are lucky that God does not depend on our puny imaginations.

Many of us, too, probably feel like we’re living life in the margins. Our jobs are not glamorous. Our churches may be small. If we do social justice work at all, we may wonder why we bother. We try to be the light of the world, but it’s easy to feel that light flickering.

St. Matthias reminds us that we may yet be promoted. And in the meantime, there is work to be done, far from the spotlight. All of it is important, as we serve the greater good, as we answer the call that God has issued.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott
Kristin Berkey-Abbott is a lifelong Lutheran, a college teacher and department head. She has taught a variety of English and creative writing classes for the last 20 years. Find a link to Kristin Berkey-Abbott’s blog, “Liberation Theology Lutheran,” at Lutheran Blogs.

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