Sunday February 24, 2019
4:00 pm - Saint Thomas Church
Preacher: Fr Turner
He Wants You to Be You
When we celebrate the Feast of St. Matthias, we celebrate a feast of one of the twelve Apostles not called by Jesus but selected after prayer and the drawing of lots. The Gospels make no mention of Matthias by name though, of course, we know that there were many disciples who followed Jesus and many who me sent out – such as the 72 on a great mission. Perhaps Matthias was one of the 72; he was certainly one of the group of disciples that followed Jesus throughout his ministry; the Book of Acts tells us that Matthias had been with the Lord from the day of his baptism in the Jordan by John until the Ascension. His calling as an Apostle is significant in that he was recognized as one of the Twelve before the Day of Pentecost which, in turn, meant that he was in the upper room to receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit when the Spirit came as a mighty rushing wind and tongues of fire.
Then, that’s it! We know nothing more from the scriptures about this follower of Jesus who replaced Judas Iscariot. And that, my friends, should give us real hope. Why? Because it means that God has a plan and that plan can and, indeed, does involve you and me.
Greatness does not equate with fame on the Christian journey; we are called to be Christ-like in all that we do – to exemplify not only Christian qualities but to be like Christ. Being Christ-like means that the greatness belongs to Jesus and is not something we should seek for ourselves. John the Baptist gives us the best example of this Christ-like way of living when he says in John’s Gospel, “He must increase and I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
What this means is that no matter how small or insignificant a place we might think we have in God’s plan, nevertheless, we are important to God and our lives matter to him. God does not look at us as other human beings look at us; his values are not always our values and his expectations are most certainly not our expectations.
Our first lesson shows this most beautifully; Samuel thought that he knew exactly the kind of person that God would want him to anoint as the warrior King; someone with years of wisdom, tall perhaps, and definitely strong. But Samuel learned an important lesson the day he visited Jesse – “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
The Lord does not see as mortals see.
God has a plan and we are part of that plan even when we think that our gifts are limited and our faith weak.
As St Therese of Lisieux discovered, God looks at the heart and calls us into a special relationship with him. She had wanted to be a priest, or a missionary, and she yearned to be a martyr – bearing witness to the Lord with her life. Instead, she was asked to clean the sacristy. In any case, she was not strong enough to travel, dying at the age of 24 due to tuberculosis. Yet, in her struggle to find her place she discovered the liberating love of God who accepts us as we are. “God does not call the people worthy of the calling,” she said, “No, he calls the people it pleases him to call.” 1.That call was given to Matthias like the call that Samuel heard and then, in turn, to David. To Mary and to Elizabeth; to Peter, James, and John. Now to you and to me who are called by name to be enfolded in God’s love and God’s plan. And what is the greatest gift that we have to offer God? Simply ourselves. Just being ourselves and not being frightened of revealing who we are to God.
Rowan Williams, preaching on vocation, once said this:
“To be is to be where you are, who you are, and what you are; a person with a certain genetic composition, a certain social status, a certain set of capabilities…And to talk about God as your creator means to recognize at each moment that it is his desire for you to be, and to be the person you are. It means he is calling you by your name, at each and every moment, wanting you to be you.” 2.
Wanting you to be you.
This morning at mass, Fr. Spencer talked about Mother Teresa of Calcutta and how she struggled with a sense of God’s absence in much of her ministry and even her prayer life. Her letters and journals published after her death reveal someone very much in touch with their own human frailty and struggle with their own identity. Nevertheless, as Fr. Spencer reminded us, she carried on to the end serving the poor and maybe now, in heaven, Jesus looks back with her over those years of memories of serving the poor and the dying and searching for God but never quite finding him and, perhaps, he is saying to her “Truly I tell you, Agnes, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
So, perhaps it is not how good we are at doing things but the fact that we attempt to do them and do them beautifully and to do them honestly. Mother Teresa of Calcutta was once asked what heaven was like. She said this: “I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, 'How many good things have you done in your life?' rather he will ask, 'How much love did you put into what you did?”
Today we celebrate St Matthias about whom we know hardly anything. Yet, we know his name and we know that he was called by God. God is calling you and me into a deeper relationship with him. Are we truly listening for his voice?
1. From “The Story of a Soul,” St Thérèse’s autobiography.
2. “Vocation,” a sermon by Archbishop Rowan Williams in A Ray of Darkness . (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 1995), pp.147-149.