Tuesday of the 4th Week of Easter
Feast of St Matthias
All that we know for certain about St Matthias is what we are told in the first reading: that he was a faithful companion of the Lord Jesus, and was chosen to share in the mission of the apostles as a witness to the resurrection. In today’s Gospel, the same Lord Jesus does not mention St Matthias, but he does tell us something of what it means to be an apostle, and that applies not only to St Matthias, but to all the disciples of Jesus. It is a kind of summary of the apostolic program, and is so important that Our Lord says it twice in the same Gospel, and the Church has us sing it at the Communion: “This is my commandment: Love one another, as I love you, says the Lord”.
The first step in becoming an apostle is to “rejoice at how God’s love has been allotted to us”, as we heard in the opening Collect. The number of ways in which God shows that he loves us is known only to God, but one common way is through our experience of being loved by another human being. All those who love us have given us the means of growing spiritually just because they have loved us; they have brought out in us the person we would never have dared to become alone. God’s love for us is like that: if we receive it with joy, he brings out in us all our hidden capacity to be an apostle.
The next step is to keep the Lord’s commandment in the Gospel, “Love one another as I love you”. To be apostles we need to love one another. We need to be open and enter into other people’s hearts, and notice their needs. Especially in a monastic community, if the Lord has called very different people to our way of life and put them together in the same place, it’s so that we can bring out the best in one another. To be an apostle in a monastery is to love the brothers, warts and all. When we can love a brother who has sinned, without approving of his sin, then we are most like Christ who loved us and died for us when we were sinners.
If we persevere in this apostolic mission to love one another, we may find that the Spirit has been working in us and enlarging our heart, knocking down the limits we place on our love. Our task is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and then we may find ourselves apostles to the whole creation. That experience was summed up by Dostoevsky in the words of the Prior of the monastery where the Brothers Karamazov met:
“Brothers, have no fear of men’s sin. Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of divine love, and is the highest love on earth. Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf and every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love every thing. If you love everything you will see the divine mystery in things. Once you see it, you will begin to understand it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love”.