For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to he hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honourable we invest with the greater honour, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
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.
Examining the New Testament from the Gospels through to First Corinthians and then the Pastoral Epistles, we can see the stages of development of church leadership. In today's Gospel, Jesus spontaneously works a miracle in response to a widowed mother's grief. Corinthians puts miracle working fourth in a list of services in the church (after apostle, prophet and teacher.) In the Pastorals the offices of apostle and miracle worker are not mentioned at all, and the focus is on the leading functions of bishops, deacons, deaconess and (later) presbyters and widows.
As the church expanded through the Mediterranean world, and faced crises of internal cohesion and external persecution, its need of 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 and able to become anything they choose; as young adults, they must choose a particular way, life yet they still bring new spirit and creative innovation within that vocation; finally, as mature adults they settle into their role with caution and conservatism.
Saint Paul's main concern regarding pastoral offices is, "Which of these is best adapted to the needs of church life?" The more charismatic type of leadership carries more danger of splintering. Belief in miracles can result in mad fervor where religion becomes a cult, and the cult leader exercises absolute and lucrative control. On the other hand, we must respect the part played by miracles in the Bible and in church history. Whether in church or in our own personal lives, we must not lose faith in miracles or forget Jesus, the miracle worker. The spontaneity of charisma is needed for health in the church, but the steadfast virtues expected of bishops and deacons are needed too: an even temper, self-control, modesty of demeanour, good management skills and the rest. We hope and pray for both these values in our bishops, for the service of God's people.
In the time of Jesus, widows were considered very vulnerable; they no longer had their main provider, their husband. Widows often had to depend on their children, particularly their sons, to support them. A widow who lost her only son through death was, therefore, the most vulnerable of all. It is such a widow that Jesus encounters in today's gospel. The gospel tells us that Jesus was moved with compassion by this woman's plight. That inner movement of compassion resulted 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 our situations 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 grief and our loss on our own; the Lord carries us with us; he suffers with us, 'to suffer with' is the literal meaning of compassion. The Lord who touches us in his compassionate love also calls on us to be channels of his compassion to each other in our hour of need, to help carry each other's burdens, as he carries ours.