Tuesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(I Timothy 3:1-13; Luke 7:11-17)
The first reading today gives us a perspective on the early Church. From what it says, we can tell that it is written in the latter part of the first century, at least fifty years after Jesus was crucified. Churches are well developed with bishops and deacons. But the situation is hardly the same as we have it today. Insisting that bishops be married “only once,” the reading indicates ignorance of priestly celibacy which has held for bishops even longer than for priests.
What has caught the attention of many is the letter’s reference to women coming directly after its remarks about deacons. Do these comments refer to female deacons or the wives of deacons? It is very possible that the former is the case since there seems to have been need of female deacons to baptize adult women by submersion without causing scandal. If it is true that women deacons assist the Church in biblical times, then we may see them again. The Church is wary of innovation but has often renewed old traditions, like the catechumenate fifty years ago.
It is important that we remember that the institutions of the Church have evolved over time and also that these changes are based on principles found in Scripture. Thus, a married clergy is also within the realm of possibility. Indeed, the Church has recently ordained many married, former Episcopalian priests who converted to Catholicism. But the Church is hardly likely to betray the principles it has maintained through the ages – for example, that once ordained a priest may then marry (again). All this is to assure, as the reading today recommends, that we may have much confidence in our faith in Jesus Christ.