Homily for May 3rd, 2016: 1 Cor. 15:1-8.
“Last of all, he was seen by me, as one born out of due time,” Paul writes at the end of today’s first reading for feast of the Apostles Philip and James. To have personally seen the risen Lord was one of the original qualifications for the office of apostle. In just eleven days, on the feast of the apostle Matthias, chosen to replace the traitor Judas, we will hear Peter saying that the one chosen to fill out the number of twelve apostles must be “one of those who was of our company when the Lord Jesus moved among us, from the baptism of John until the day he was taken up from us.” Only such a person, Peter said, was qualified to be a “witness with us to the resurrection” (cf. Acts 1:21f).
The eleven remaining apostles chose two men who fitted the requirements stated by Peter. By casting lots between them, they left the choice of the substitute apostle to God. They did everything correctly. Yet God seems to have had other plans. For after the day of his naming as an apostle, Matthias disappears into obscurity, and we hear nothing more of him.
The man about whom we hear a great deal is the zealous defender of his Jewish faith, Saul, given the name Paul in baptism following his dramatic conversion to faith in Jesus Christ in the encounter with him outside
From that day on Paul insisted that on that day he had seen the risen Lord. For after listing the other resurrection appearances – the one to “five hundred brothers at once,” and to the apostle James, known to us only from this passage – Paul says: “Last of all he was seen by me, as one born out of the normal course.” This qualified him, Paul always insisted, to be a “witness to the risen Lord,” and as such an apostle.
Paul’s story is fascinating – another example of God disclosing himself, as he does over and again in Holy Scripture, as the God of surprises -- indeed the God of the humanly impossible.