The first reading at Mass today teaches us about the origins of the ministry of deacon in the Church as first and foremost a ministry of charity. This Bishop couldn't help but hear that same reading speaking to him and to his duties and life priorities as a successor of the Apostles, duties which have never changed since those apostolic times:
‘It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food; you, brothers, must select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom; we will hand over this duty to them, and continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word.’ (Acts 6:2b-4)
St. Francis de Sales teaches that the bishop's role is not that of the monk, when it comes to spending time in contemplation and prayer, and Pope St. Gregory the Great, long before him, wept over the loss of his monastic life in favor of the duties of the pontificate, which had him very much immersed in society. What is it then that we read in the Acts of the Apostles? How do I divide up my day? Counting the hours for sleep, for business and whatever, when can I rest secure that I have devoted enough time to prayer and to the service of the word of God without passing over into a cloistered existence? When and how am I being faithful to my specific calling?
One of my dear bosses years back would occasionally refer to life in an Apostolic Nunciature as sort of unique. He found it so in contrast to the domestic existence he had known in Rome in the Curia, living with his parents, brothers and sisters, and commuting to work in the Vatican. I think he liked the Nunciature, but there are many young priests who find the lifestyle too austere by comparison with the busy life of a parish or teaching assignment. A lot of it has to do with understanding the service to the Word of God that is required of us as successors of the apostles and presbyters.
We understand from Acts that the Apostles knew that the widows, the ministry of charity could not be neglected. After all, charity is the hallmark of Christianity. Nonetheless, the need for a division of labor for the sake of a life of prayer and preaching was all too clear to them.
No doubt for some of us, study and prayer, the life of virtue is to be privileged over anxiousness about finding occasions to preach and teach. No doubt prayer is the best preparation for seeking the Lord's kingship over us and thereby being ready to further build that Kingdom through proclamation. The path is clear to the extent that we see the difference when preaching flows from the virtuous man's storehouse by the grace of the God Who gives seed to the sower and bread to eat.
DEO VOLENTE EX ANIMO
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