Scripture: Lectionary 444. Sept.17th I Timothy 3:1-13, Psalm 101:1-2,2-3,5.6. Luke 7:11-17:
The reading from I Timothy is later in the formation of the house churches that Paul was forming among the Gentiles. There is need for some rules that would govern these house churches as they grew in membership. It was a good period of growth in the early Church as we hear for the first time the word “bishop” or overseer (episcopos in Greek). It was used for magistrates in secular society, but here a new meaning is attached to it for it describes the virtues necessary for such a post in leadership within the Church. It conforms more to a pastoral rule of life rather than to a job description.
The bishop is to be a spiritual leader in the pastoral care he has for the believers and the house church to which he oversees. He is to offer an attractive witness to the outsiders as well. His good example should be seen in his own family; celibacy was not required but monogamy was. As we move on in the selection we read about the deacons in the early church; it seems that women also were deacons. The term became important in chapter six of Acts of the Apostles where there was need for servant-leaders concerned about the poor, the widows, and the service to both Jewish and Greek believers who came into the Christian faith. It will evolve in its role from serving at tables to administering even Baptism and bringing communion to those who are sick or alone.
There are a number of specific virtues mentioned in this pericope from I Timothy: moderation in the use of food and drink; drunkenness is not tolerated in these leadership positions. Balanced behavior and hospitality are mentioned; self-control, modesty, teaching ability but not necessarily academic brilliance. This phrase stands out, “He is to be a good teacher. He must not be addicted to drink. He ought not to be contentious but, rather, gentle, a man of peace.” (this refers to bishops).
Today deacons have become very important in the wide pastoral needs of the parishes. They are well trained and now administer a number of sacred rituals that were only done by priests. They baptize, preach, distribute communion, and act as spiritual directors, and witness to weddings.
For both bishops and deacons the call to be servant-leaders is a pastoral priority.
In our Gospel selection we have another merciful healing in Luke that tells us of Jesus raising from death the only son of his mother. Both again are unnamed but remembered through the Gospel of Luke. We call the mother the woman of Naim (pleasant village). The word used for the resuscitation is also used for the resurrection of Jesus thus the passage is an aid to our own reflection on personal resurrection. In Judaism the body and soul are not separted as in Greek thought. Hence, bodily resurrection is what is meant in the Gospels. Perhaps, this helps us in understanding the mystery of Mary’s Assumption into heaven just as there are Assumptions in the tradition of Judaism: the Assumption of Moses, of Elijah, and of course the wonderful story of the dry bones coming back into full life in Ezekiel. Amen
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.