Fr. Bros Flores SJ’s Reflection on St. Matthias

Frs. Atong Ong SJ and Ambrosio Flores SJ were regents of the Ateneo High School. As newly ordained priests, they return to thank the people they served. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ
Frs. Atong Ong SJ and Ambrosio Flores SJ were regents of the Ateneo High School. As newly ordained priests, they return to thank the people they served. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

If only the formation programs are simple and straightforward, then lots can just be used to determine the most effective and appropriate programs. Then, you would not have spent this fly to Manila during this summer break and go through these five days of workshop. Do not, however, be deceived by the seeming straightforwardness of drawing lots in the First Reading today. It is not as simple and straightforward as it seems to be. There is a lot we can draw lessons from and gain affirmations on—things that we tend to miss out when we are too steeped into quantifying their effects on our students.

First, we know very little of Matthias from Scriptures. In fact, there is no other passage in the Bible that clearly speaks of him other than the selection that we read today. Yet, Clement of Alexandria writes of Matthias. “He was not chosen by Jesus for what he already was, but for what Jesus foresaw he would become. He was elected not because he was worthy but because he would become worthy.” The lot fell on Matthias because of the POSSIBILITIES—of what he can become through the Spirit.

So it is with us. We form students, including the parents not just because of what they are but what they can become. Formation can often times be difficult—here, we speak of stubbornness, and resistance of both the formators and the formands. We can also speak of parents who condone their children rather than support our program. The first reading today reminds us not to stop with who our students are at the present moment but to look at them as possibilities. And if, even this becomes challenging, we can try to look at ourselves, how others have been patient with us and how our mentors have seen possibilities in us instead of just our frailties.

Second, the drawing of lots is preceded by Peter’s description of the kind of person that should replace Judas. He must have followed Jesus before anyone knew him, stayed with him when he made enemies, and believed in him when he spoke of the cross and of eating his body—such difficult teachings that separate the true from the false believers. In other words, he has to have a PERSONAL ENCOUNTER with Jesus Christ. This personal experience would lead us to authentically witness Him and live lives that reflect what Christianity really means.

So also with us— formators, teachers, men and women who ascribe to the Ignatian and Jesuit spirituality. We can come up with the noblest and most appropriate formation program. We can proudly write and speak about Ignatian and Jesuit Spirituality but if our lives do not reflect what we write and what we speak, then our programs and our persons remain ineffective. There is a huge difference between teaching students about who Jesus is and witnessing Jesus with our lives because we have encountered Jesus.

Third, the use of lots may appear to be very simple and straightforward and in fact, even crude because it resorts on the game of chances rather than rely on Divine Providence. If we look at the reading closely, it is the other way around. Take note that even before giving the lots to Barsabbas and Matthias, Peter prayed and sought the guidance of the Spirit. It would be good to listen again to Peter’s prayer: “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.” Peter and the early Christians recognize that only the Lord knows what is in the heart of both men and so they yield to the power of His Spirit. Drawing lots is the best way they know of allowing His Spirit to personally choose the person He deems worthy.

And so, it is with us. We need PRAYER. We pool in the best and most creative minds to come up with the most robust programs and assessment tools but at the end of the day, we ought to yield to the Spirit. We allow the Spirit to guide us and to permit Him take his rightful place in the formation process. After all, this is not solely our work. We are mere instruments of the Spirit in forming the young men and women entrusted to our care. We develop programs, implement them, measure them but we also ought to pray for the students entrusted to our care including their families. Prayer is as important as the programs and assessment tools.

Here, let me cite the soon-to-be beatified Archbishop, Oscar Romero:

“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted,

knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,

an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen.

Possibilities. Personal Encounter. Prayer.

So on this feast of St. Matthias, and after going through the rigorous five days of workshop and doing what you have to do, we ask for these graces –

[1] the grace to see the people entrusted to our care beyond their frailties and to see them as POSSIBILITIES;

[2] the grace to have authentic PERSONAL EXPERIENCE with Jesus in order to truly witness him in our lives;

[3] the grace to PRAY and yield to the work of the Spirit. After all, formation work is His work. We, as formators, merely partake of this divine work.

St. Matthias, pray for us.

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