Voluntold: A Homily for the Feast of St. Matthias the Apostle

Offered today at the noon Eucharist at Church of the Holy Family…

Acts 1:15-26

Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus — for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.

So 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 — one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.”

So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Have you ever heard the term “voluntold”? A quick Internet search defines this word as being “forcibly volunteered,” as when “a task that was once voluntary has now been assigned to you.”

For example, you’ve volunteered for a number of years to bring food to a particular church event…and suddenly you’re practically the caterer of the event! You’ve been a member of something for a while…and suddenly you get an email with your name listed under “co-chair.” Sounds like you’ve been voluntold.

St. Matthias is, in a sense, voluntold to be among the 12 disciples, replacing Judas after Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and subsequent death. As in a military draft, Matthias gets called upon for this task and seems to respond dutifully.

How does Matthias get called? I see a two-part process.

First, even before Matthias gets called, he was there. He was showing up. Acts 1:21 describes Matthias as “one of the men who has accompanied us all this time.” He has accompanied the disciples. Not been in an “inner circle,” not been honored or promoted or elected to anything or even really mentioned in the Scriptures up to this point. If I was Matthias, I might have gotten frustrated with that sort of invisibility. But Matthias stayed faithful.

Second, even after Matthias gets called, he is faithful. The disciples put forward 2 people and cast lots between them. It sounds strange to our modern ears — casting lots. Being “voluntold” today often has a negative connotation. We might protest “Hey, I didn’t sign myself up for that!” But this is following Jesus that we’re talking about. This call, for Matthias, seems to be worth following even if it comes randomly, suddenly, unexpectedly. So, again Matthias stays faithful.

We hear in the gospel of John, chapter 15, another of today’s readings, that Jesus says to his followers, including to us: “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”

We’re not necessarily called to say “yes” to just anything and everything we get “voluntold” to do in this life. But if the call is from Jesus? If the call is to bear good fruit? Then may we be numbered among those who say “yes.”   

May we, following the command of our Lord Jesus Christ and the example of St. Matthias, stay faithful to notice, this day and always, how God is appointing us to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.


2 thoughts on “Voluntold: A Homily for the Feast of St. Matthias the Apostle

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