Saturday, 14 May 2016

Saint Matthias - 14 May

Readings: Acts 1:15-17, 20-26; Psalm 113; John 15:9-17

St John Chrysostom says that Peter could have appointed someone to take Judas's place but he chose not to and consulted the disciples. 'In any case he had not yet received the Spirit', Chrysostom adds. Thomas Aquinas says that it was acceptable to choose Matthias by casting lots because the Spirit had not yet been poured on the Church. After Pentecost, however, it is not appropriate to choose spiritual leaders in that way. Now spiritual leaders must be chosen through the reflection, conversation and decision of colleges of human beings because this is the normal way in which the Spirit works in the Church.

It is a politics of friendship, if you like. It is a fulfillment of the friendship with God which Jesus has established. From it arises also a new kind of friendship between human beings, all of whom share the same Spirit. It is not just a new friendship with God that Christ makes possible but a new kind of friendship among men and women.

No longer servants, we are friends of Christ and so friends of God. Friendship with God is another way of naming grace. It implies equality, mutuality, sharing, communication, loving. But it implies all those things understood Christologically. We can sometimes fall back into reducing the Christian faith to a kind of philosophy, a set of ideas which have a certain, abstract, truth, ideals that it is good to aspire to and to live by.

But the Christian faith is qualitatively different from even the best philosophy because it is centred not on an idea or even on an ideal but on a Person. It is about persons in relationship: the Father with the Son in the Holy Spirit; the Father and the Son come to dwell in the disciples by the power of the Spirit; Jesus in the disciples and they in him; the Blessed Trinity abiding in the hearts and minds of those who love Him; human beings called to abide in the word and commandment and life and love of Jesus, and to bring all that into their relationships with each other.

Put much more simply, keep an eye out for the little word 'as' in the discourses of Jesus recorded in John's gospel. In today's gospel passage alone we find it a few times. As the Father loved me so I have loved you. If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love as I have kept the Father's commandments and remain in his love. Love one another as I have loved you. Christ is the key, the link, the mediation between the Divine Love and Friendship and the human participation in that Love and Friendship.

An apostle is one who has been with Christ from the beginning. He has been in the community of formation that is the band of disciples and apostles, witnessing and hearing everything from the baptism of Jesus by John to his resurrection from the dead. It is not just a matter of time spent in the company of Jesus. It is about being one of the friends to whom Jesus has made known everything he has learned from the Father. One of the greatest blessings of friendship is the joy of knowing and being known, trusting enough to share oneself with one's friend, experiencing the security of entrusting oneself completely.

The Church is Apostolic in this sense, a community of men and women who have become the friends of Jesus, who have spent long years in his company, who have entrusted their lives and their hearts to him as he has entrusted his life and his heart to us. It is only ever through Christ, and with Christ, and in Christ, experiencing things as He experienced them, knowing as He knows, seeing as He sees, doing as He does, being as He is, loving as He loves. And persevering in this friendship until we know even as we have been known, and then become capable of loving even as we have been loved.

No comments: