Tuesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
(I Corinthians 6:1-11; Luke 6:12-19)
Toward the end of the second volume of his biblical reflection on Jesus Christ, Pope Benedict makes a significant admission. Realizing that the Church is criticized for its exclusively male clergy, the pope admits that women have been Jesus’ best followers, remaining with him at the cross and being the first at his tomb after the resurrection. But, he says, Jesus establishes his Church on the eleven faithful apostles who become the prototypes of its officials. In the gospel today Jesus makes his selection.
There are four distinct lists of apostles in the New Testament -- one in each of the first three gospels and another in the Acts of the Apostles. In all of them Peter is given priority, always being mentioned first. Similarly, Judas Iscariot is always placed last because, of course, he betrayed the Lord. In between are the other ten more or less in order of how much is known of each. Jesus chooses the twelve from a much larger group of disciples, including women as St. Luke indicates later in his story.
We must be clear that women are not ordained because of any defect in their nature. As Pope Benedict implies, they make excellent disciples. Nor should we doubt the primacy of the successor of Peter, who has been traditionally identified as the bishop of Rome. Our Church strives to be inclusive in the sense that it invites all to be disciples of Christ. Some may reject the offer; others may not qualify as officials. But neither group should be forgotten, much less put down. We return to the first with the invitation in hope that they may change their minds. And we give particular attention to the second because they may surpass the officials in holiness.