13 Sept, Tuesday of Week 24
1 Tim 3:1ff. The qualities of bishop, deacon and deaconess – hospitable, respected, truthful, good managers.
Lk 7:11ff. Jesus raises to life the dead son of a widow at Naim. The people respond with awe.
Variety of Christian Tasks
If we read today’s scriptural selection in reverse, beginning with the Gospel, and then First Timothy, we detect stages of development within church leadership. In the Gospel, at the sight of a dead man being carried to his grave, the only son of a widowed mother, Jesus acts spontaneously to work a miracle. In the next stage, the miracle-worker is named along with such offices in the church as apostle, prophet, teacher, healer and others. But in First Timothy the offices of apostle or miracle worker are not mentioned at all, and the focus is now on the roles of bishop, deacon, deaconess and (later) on presbyter and widow.
As the church expanded in number and spread throughout the Mediterranean world, and faced crises of internal leadership and external persecution, its need of careful organization grew. We can see this paralleled in the development of an individual’s life. Children and youth are filled with hope and seem willing to tackle giants and become anything they choose; as young adults, they must choose a definite way of life yet they still bring new spirit and creative innovation within the office or vocation; finally, as mature men and women they settle down into their role or job with caution, wisdom and strength. Yet some important ideas come to mind as we meditate on the evolution of roles in the church.
The development from the more charismatic to the more organizational is normal and necessary. If the more charismatic and freer type of leadership is chronologically closer to Jesus, the later church is also called the body of Christ in the Scriptures. In First Corinthians Paul says: The body is one and has many members, but all the members are one body as is Christ. He reflects on which of the various kinds of gifts and abilities are best adapted to the needs of church life. We must recognize the presence of the miraculous and the charismatic in biblical religion and in the church. But trusting only in the more charismatic types of leadership is fraught with danger. Throughout the Bible miraculous feats were not always sign of God’s approval. Some of Moses’ miracles were matched by Pharaoh’s magicians (Exod 7:22; 8:3). Miracles can result in mad fervor where religion becomes a cult, and the leader exercises absolute and often lucrative control.
The charism of generosity is always to be valued among us: concern for others should drive us to expend ourselves generously for the poor, the sick, the helpless, the needy. We will be amazed at the results; they might even be miraculous. Perhaps one of the deadliest cancers in middle age and beyond, in church life as well as in civil administration, is the quiet acceptance of monotony, mediocrity and heavy passivity. To live happy lives we must always be ready for a miracle around the corner.
This combination of human prudence and divine wonder induces a healthy spirit within church and within each human life. The virtues expected of bishop, deacon and deaconess are admirable indeed: irreproachable, married only once, of even temper, self-controlled, modest, hospitable, not addicted to drink, a good manager of one’s own household, holding fast to the divinely revealed faith with a clear conscience. To hope for all these virtues in one person implies a belief in miracles in the everyday life of God’s people.
First Reading: 1 Timothy 3:1-13
The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way – for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil.
Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
Gospel: Luke 7:11-17
Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favourably on his people!” This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.