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.
My song is of mercy and justice;
I sing to you, O Lord.
I will walk in the way of perfection.
O when, Lord, will you come? (R./)
I will walk with blameless heart
within my house;
I will not set before my eyes
whatever is base. (R./)
The man who slanders his neighbour in secret
I will bring to silence.
The man of proud looks and haughty heart
I will never endure. (R./)
I look to the faithful in the land
that they may dwell with me.
He who walks in the way of perfection
shall be my friend. (R./)
Jesus 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.
Paul's guidance to Timothy suggests some levels of formal leadership emerging in the early church. There is no mention of the roles of apostle, prophet or healer, as in the days of Jesus, and the focus has turned to the roles of bishop, deacon, deaconess and (later) on presbyter and widow.
As the church expanded in number through the Mediterranean world, and faced crises of internal leadership and external persecution, its need of careful organization grew. The development from the more charismatic to the more organizational way of directing the community is normal and necessary. If the more charismatic, freer type of leadership is chronologically closer to Jesus, the later church is also called the body of Christ.. St Paul says: The body is one and has many members, but all the members are one body as is Christ. He reflects on the various kinds of gifts and abilities needed in church life.
The quiet 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. Today we need to pray that people of this quality will still be inspired to offer themselves for the service of God's people.
Widows were usually financially and socially very vulnerable. Without their husbands, they had to depend on their children, particularly their sons, to provide for them. A widow who lost her only son through death was, therefore, the most vulnerable of all. It is such a widow who meets Jesus in today's gospel. It says that he was moved with compassion by this woman's plight. That impulse of compassion results in action on his part, as he restores her son to life and gives him back to his mother. It is striking that the widow in this story did not take any initiative towards Jesus; she did not cry out to him for help. Without waiting to be asked, Jesus simply responded to a situation of human grief and loss.
The same risen Lord reaches out to us today in any situation of grief and loss, without waiting to be asked. When we are at our most vulnerable, his compassion is at its strongest. We are not asked to carry our griefs on our own, for he carries them with us. Literally, he suffers with us -- "to suffer with" is the literal meaning of compassion. The Lord who shows us compassionate love wants us to be channels of compassion to others in their hour of need, to carry each other's burdens, as he carries ours