Benedictine Daily Prayer has a reading from a sermon of John Henry Newman for the feast. In the sermon Newman notes “We take the place of others who have gone before us, as Matthias did…”
There are many who have gone before us – some well known, others unknown. They include our family members as well as friends.
Today the Catholic Church celebrates St. Matthias who took over Judas’ place among the apostles. We know almost nothing about him – except that he was chosen by lot over another candidate, both of whom had been with Jesus since the baptism of Jesus by John and were witnesses to the resurrection. (Acts 1: 15-26). All the rest is legend.
Today is also the thirtieth anniversary of the death of the Carmelite seminarian Isagani Valle in Buenavista, Agusan del Norte, Mindanao, the Philippines, while on an immersion in this poor area. Walking with two farmers who may have been members of the guerrilla New Peoples Army, he was shot down by the police.
In one of his study-group reflections he wrote:
We still have to see a theology that proceeds from the people and goes back to the people; a theology which contains the lives and experiences of the masses; a theology that is dialogical. This needs real immersion in the lives, sufferings and struggles of the people. It is being written in the midst of the slums, in dialogue with the poor and their life-situation: It is that place where we, seminarians, have to listen and learn. It will, for sure, be different from a theology written in air-conditioned rooms. We must work and struggle for this theology – liberative and developmental of the people, and transformative of reality.
Who will take the place of people like Isagani, accompanying the poor. He is unknown to most of us, but he is one who took seriously these words of Jesus in today’s Gospel (John 15:12-13) :
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
A short biography of Isagani Valle can be found here. (Scroll down to his story.)