Occasion: Fifth Sunday of Easter
You can find the full readings here. This Lectio is based on the New Testament reading, Acts 6⋅1-7.
As the number of disciples continued to grow,
the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews
because their widows
were being neglected in the daily distribution.
So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said,
“It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.
Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men,
filled with the Spirit and wisdom,
whom we shall appoint to this task,
whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer
and to the ministry of the word.“
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community,
so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit,
also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas,
and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
They presented these men to the apostles
who prayed and laid hands on them.
The word of God continued to spread,
and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly;
even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
Daily distribution, select from among you, laid hands on them
In this Sunday’s first reading, the Hellenistic Jews were from Greek-speaking communities, while the Hebrews were Jews that mainly spoke Aramaic. The Hellenists feel that the Hebrews are not properly providing for their widows. To resolve the issue, the Apostles tell them to choose seven men to oversee this duty. The Apostles and pray and lay hands on them-ordaining them. The office of deacon is instituted.
The ordination of a deacon still follows this basic formula. During the Mass, usually after the homily, the candidate is presented to the bishop. The bishop prays and lays hands on them.
Deacons can be strong ties between the congregation and the clergy in that they are clergy who often serve in their home parishes. (In the reading, their first job is to see to the widows of the community.) However, like priests, they are also sent where they are needed. The reading goes on to say that the word of God spread and the number of disciples grew. These men were going out to preach the Gospel.
The office of Deacon is almost as old as the Church itself. After a few hundred years, permanent deacons began to fade away while transitional deacons-those intending to become priests-remained. It was not until Vatican II, the Church saw fit to restore permanent deacons. Deacons do not take the place of priests, however. Each order of the clergy-bishop, priest, and deacon-has its own specific role within the parish community and the greater Church as a whole.