By James Cornwell

A Reading from Acts 1:15-26

15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred and twenty people) and said, 16 “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 — 17 for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the book of Psalms,
‘Let his homestead become desolate,
and let there be no one to live in it’;
and
‘Let another take his position of overseer.’
21 So one of the men who have accompanied us throughout the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 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.” 23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Meditation

What are we to do when we feel as though Jesus has departed from us and we are without direction? In the ten days between the Ascension and Pentecost, when Jesus had departed to his Father and the Spirit had not yet descended, what did the disciples do? Today’s text from Acts answers these questions.

First, immediately after Jesus departs to his Father, the disciples return to his mother. Upon witnessing the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, it is only natural that the disciples would retrace their steps to the beginning — the place where God entered this world as a human being.

But there is more: they pray with her. This is significant, because Mary is not simply the mother of Jesus, but the corporeal temple where God chose to dwell. As Robert Jenson writes in his book, Mary, the Mother of God:

“After all the Lord’s struggle with his beloved Israel, he finally found a place in Israel that unbelief would not destroy like the Temple, or silence like the prophets, or simply lose, like the Book of the Law before Josiah. This place is a person. To ask Mary to pray for us is to meet him there.”

And as the disciples pray with — again, Jenson’s words — “Israel concentrated,” Peter recognizes that Israel has been wounded. They no longer have twelve apostles to inherit the promise of the twelve tribes of Israel. Thus, they institute a ritual to restore the Twelve in calling Matthias, whose only qualification is having been witness to the entirety of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Church, thus having been restored in the presence of the one who gave birth to God, is now herself ready to be born in the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

So when we feel as though Jesus has departed from us as he departed from his disciples, perhaps the best way forward is to gather in prayer with the Theotokos, restore our relationships damaged by sin, and remember our baptism as we await the Holy Spirit’s next call.

James Cornwell lives and teaches in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their six children.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Texas
The Diocese of Chelmsford (Church of England)