Monday, April 17, 2017: Bright Monday
Christ is Risen!
In the weeks following Pascha, we read from the Acts of the Apostles. What we read in Acts parallels what we see in that day’s Gospel reading about Jesus. The ministry of the Apostles in the early days of Church is shown to us as a continuation or extension of Jesus’ own ministry while on earth. This parallelism is nowhere seen as clearly as it is in today’s reading from Acts.
Even before Pentecost, the Church understands that Judas’ betrayal and apostasy are more than simply his personal failure. His departure from the Apostolic college represents a real loss for the whole Church.
To correct his deficiency–and to ensure a living continuity in the Church with Jesus–the Apostles seek to fulfill the office once held by Judas. The requirement for this new apostle is straightforward. He must be “one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us.” But while the Apostles set the standard, it is God Who makes the final choice of Matthias through the casting of lots.
This morning we see that like St John the Baptist before them, the Apostles are concerned with ensuring the integrity of the Church’s witness to Jesus Christ. Matthias, like all the Apostles–and like all of us–has only one job. Together with the other Apostles, he is called by Christ to be “a witness to his resurrection.”
The care the Apostles take in choosing a replacement for Judas reflects not simply the seriousness of the task but also its unprecedented nature. The Good News of the Resurrection is so much more than we could ever dare expect there is always a temptation to minimize its radical character, to make it more acceptable, more easily understood but also less demanding, less a threat to our own, my own, self-aggrandizing tendencies.
Like the Apostles in their choice of Matthias, in the time between Pascha and Pentecost, the Church asks us to reflect on the experience of the early Church to help keep us connected to Jesus and the radical nature of the Gospel. Year after year we return to the struggles and triumphs, the successes and failures of the Apostles to keep alive in our own hearts and communities what it means to be a Christian.
And what does it mean? Simply this, to be a witness to the Resurrection of Christ. In the Resurrection, Christ has made God known to us and it is with this knowledge that we find our personal vocation as Orthodox Christian.