Tuesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
1 Timothy 3:1-13 + Luke 7:11-17
…a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach….
Today’s First Reading, from St. Paul’s first epistle to St. Timothy, speaks to the lived reality of Holy Orders in the apostolic church. There are three “orders” (sometimes called “grades” or “degrees”) of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. St. Paul speaks today of the first and the last.
The highest degree of Holy Orders is the episcopacy, which literally means the “office of over-seeing” (or synonymously, the “office of supervising”). What does the bishop supervise? He oversees a local church: what today we call a “diocese”.
From St. Paul’s description of a bishop we must tease out those qualities which are essential to the office from those rooted in practical first-century circumstances, which may be different from circumstances in our own day. One example of this is the call of married men to Holy Orders. In the time of the apostles, Christ’s call to celibacy (see, for example, Matthew 19:3-12) had only been known for a few decades, and so the demand that all bishops be unmarried was not yet enforced by the Church.
In the last section of today’s First Reading, St. Paul comments on the office of deacon. He describes several requisite qualities for deacons, and uses the word “serve” twice to describe their work. Deacons serve in a two-fold capacity: they serve the bishop or priest at the altar in the Sacred Liturgy, and the poor in the world bearing the divine charity that flows from the Sacred Liturgy. In the office of the deacon is an example that each of us Christians ought to imitate.