We will emphasis on the real mark of a Christian. This is to be in company with Jesus like Matthias, to imitate and emulate Christ who consecrated Himself (making himself holy) in order to consecrate others (making others holy), and to abide in God by loving our neighbour.
Jesus had chosen twelve Apostles to be the nucleus of the new Israel – the Church. Just as the Jews traced their roots back to the twelve sons of Jacob, so the new Israel is rooted in the twelve Apostles. This explain why it was so important to choose a substitute for Judas, who lost his position as a member of Christ’s Apostles. And that position must be filled. The two men who fulfilled the qualities demanded by Peter were presented. And lots were cast to see which of the two the Lord has chosen as Apostle.
In choosing a replacement for Judas, the apostolic community needed a man of virtues and qualities. What qualities did they look for? Basically two. First of all: faithfulness. He would have to be someone who had been there from the start — not some recent ‘blow-in’. This was an exterior thing, something they could judge for themselves.
Secondly: integrity of heart. This is an interior thing, something which God alone can judge. Hence the need for prayer. And Matthias was chosen.
The Lord calls each of us too to be Matthias of our time. To be in company with Jesus, and to be people of integrity and faithfulness, who follow the Lord through thick and thin. This is what qualified Matthias. So, the real mark of a Christian is not that he ‘knows about’ Jesus but that he ‘knows’ Jesus. The real Christian is a man who lives day by day with Jesus, and whose whole life is a witness to the risen Lord.
The real Christian should ‘consecrate’ himself/herself like Jesus in order to make others holy. In Christ’s prayer in today’s Gospel, He says “I consecrate myself for disciples’ sake that they may be consecrated in truth”. The word ‘consecration’ means “to make holy”. And so we may rephrase Christ’s words to read: “I make myself holy that my disciples may be holy.” So, the Gospel invites us to imitate Christ by making ourselves holy in order to bring others to holiness. This should become the motivation of every Christian. Therefore, the best way to bring people to Christ is to follow Him more closely ourselves, and to have personal encounter with Him. This was a mistake of Judas. Some justify Judas’ actions based on the prophesy of Jesus, but the fact remains that Judas never followed Jesus closely. He had been stealing all along even before Christ prophesied. This has always been the fate of traitors and those who steal Church’s money. No wonder, he’s being replaced by someone else.
In Jesus’ prayer, He thanked God for not losing any of His followers except the one who has ‘destined’ to be lost. God has not destined anybody to be lost but man chooses to be lost (cf Jn 3:17,18). Judas betrayed his Master simply out of greed for money. Though Judas never meant Jesus to die, he betrayed Jesus with the intention of manipulating Jesus, thinking Jesus would disappear as usual. For love of money he forfeited his calling.
Notwithstanding, God’s work must continue. Another person has to take Judas’ position. God will not change His plan but He may change the person involved. For every Elijah, there are 7,000 prophets ready to take his place should he misbehaved (cf 1Kg 19:13,14,18). Therefore, we need to be serious with God. If we fail to serve God, we may be replaced with somebody else. Remember, to be in Jesus is a privilege. Let’s be faithful in following him.
The priestly prayer of Jesus also includes His present and future disciples who were to carry on His work in the world. Jesus prayed fervently for the unity among His disciples. We Christians need to work out this prayer of Jesus by allowing ourselves to be agents of unity and harmony. Christ also prayed that the disciples might be victorious over evil. ‘I do not ask you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the evil one.’ So Christ prayed and wished His disciples victory over evil. He foresaw that life would be difficult for them. But He did not pray that they might be spared trials and sufferings, but that they might remain faithful in spite of them.
Therefore, the disciples are being sent to challenge the world to turn from darkness to light. In bearing witness, we must be prepared to suffer the world’s hate. We are in the world but not of the world. It means believers have to live and work in the world but never to allow the standards and attitudinal behaviours influence our lives. For example, in the way we speak, in our music and dancing, we must be guided by Christian teachings about purity and modesty.
It means a believer may experience difficulties in the world, but he or she needs to persevere and change the world positively, and he or she must never allow the world to change him or her. So, Christ did not offer a release from problems but the strength to cope with them. This is how Jesus prayed for His disciples, and this is how we too should pray. We pray not to be spared trials, but that God will help us to cope with whatever trials life sends us.
Lastly, We are reminded on this day that the media indeed have enormous potentials for promoting peace and building bridges between peoples, because accurate knowledge about other parts of the world and other cultures can promote understanding, and dispel prejudice. However, in the attempt to disseminate information there is the danger of propaganda, broadcast of false news and information, and social communication platforms that could foster hatred, violence, prejudice and discrimination, bloodshed and terrorism. These should be avoided. What we should embrace are mediums of communication that will break down walls of prejudice and discrimination, hatred and misinformation. We should also pray for all communicators — journalists, broadcasters, musicians, actors, publishers, artistes and teachers — that they may wisely use the media and put them at the service of humanity to promote understanding among all peoples of the world.
Written by Fr. Andrew Odeyemi (Catholic Priest of Ekiti Diocese)