1 Timothy 3:1-13
It is so common for Paul’s writings to be taken out of context when we become overly concerned with the specific audiences Paul addresses. A more fruitful practice when reading Paul’s letters is to make yourself the recipient of his letters. In other words, replace all target audiences Paul mentions with your own name. For today’s reading, you would replace the words "bishop", "deacon" and "women" with your own name. If you hadn’t already done so, go ahead and do it. How did the reading speak to you differently? What did you think when the first line of the reading changed to: "Beloved, this saying is trustworthy: whoever aspires to the office of__________ (insert your name) desires a noble task."How beautiful is that? Simply aspiring to be yourself is a noble task indeed.
Paul also gives us a beautiful "job description" if you will for what we are all meant to be in the Church. According to Paul, we are called to be: irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money, have a good reputation among outsiders, dignified, not deceitful, not greedy for sordid gain, holding fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience, tested, and not slanderers. Certainly, this is a job description meant not just for bishops, deacons and women; it is a job description for all!
Today’s gospel also provides a very important ingredient to the "job" of being a Christian–our response to the pain of others. Ask yourself: When you approach someone who is in obvious pain (mental or physical), what is your response? Do you respond as Jesus did for the widow who lost her son? What does it mean to be "moved with pity" for someone?
In a number of places the gospels record that Jesus was "moved with pity" when he met with individuals and groups of people. The English word "pity" doesn’t fully convey the deeper meaning of the original Hebrew word which expresses heart-felt "sympathy" and personal identification with the suffering person’s grief and physical condition. Why was Jesus so moved on this occasion when he met a widow and a crowded funeral procession on their way to the cemetery? Jesus not only grieved the untimely death of a young man, but he showed the depth of his concern for the woman who lost not only her husband, but her only child as well. Jesus deeply desires to become one with us in our suffering. The challenge, then, for us is: Are we becoming one with others during their moments of suffering? It’s part of the job description.
Tony Cortese, is the Campus Minister at the Newman Catholic Community at Sacramento State University.