Today is the Feast of St Mathias–the Apostle who was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. His selection is very instructive–showing us the way to make decisions as Catholics and being a defense of the Apostolic Succession and the living, dynamic authority of the Church. It all comes from the passage in the Acts of the Apostles read at Mass today:
Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers and sisters
(there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons
in the one place).
He said, “My brothers and sisters,
the Scripture had to be fulfilled
which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand
through the mouth of David, concerning Judas,
who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.
Judas was numbered among us
and was allotted a share in this ministry.
For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
Let his encampment become desolate,
and may no one dwell in it.
May another take his office.
Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men
who accompanied us the whole time
the Lord Jesus came and went among us,
beginning from the baptism of John
until the day on which he was taken up from us,
become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas,
who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.
Then they prayed,
“You, Lord, who know the hearts of all,
show which one of these two you have chosen
to take the place in this apostolic ministry
from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.”
Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias,
and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles.
The Anglicans like to talk of the “three legged stool” of authority in their tradition. The three legs are Scripture, Tradition and Human Reason. This passage shows that the Catholic Church has it’s own “three legged stool” of authority for the church, but it is one which is ultimately stronger and more permanent than any Anglican proposal, and certainly stronger than the Protestant notion of sola Scriptura. Read more.
EXTRA READING: Believing and Belonging is a longer article on Apostolic Succession; Biblical Support for the Authority of the Pope is a long article available by digital download. Benedict XVI on the need for Apostolic Authority is here. A short post Lots of Little Churches shows what happens without Apostolic Authority.