Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday in the 24th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
The Vigilance that Raises to Life

Readings: 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Psalms 101:1b-2ab, 2cd-3ab, 5, 6; Luke 7:11-17

It’s quite clear what the first reading offers us today. We don’t really need much explanation to see that we are being presented with a list of qualifications. We are being told what to expect from our leaders, especially our bishops, priests and deacons. What seems less clear is what we ought to do with this information.

One approach will be to use it as ammunition to judge and to criticize. Although this can be taken to an extreme, it can also be a legitimate use of the information, especially if the criticisms are warranted and constructive. Indeed, isn’t it far better to criticize wrongdoing than to condone it? I am reminded, for example, of how the pedophilia scandals that afflicted several parts of the church were partly the result of people turning a blind eye to, and even covering up, obvious misconduct. So criticism can be healthy. But it does have its limits. By its very nature, criticism happens only after or during the event. When done properly, it constitutes a step towards repairing the damage already done. Yet, is there not another way of using what Paul tells us in the first reading, a way to prevent the damage occurring in the first place?

This approach demands a different way of proceeding. It implies that ordinary people have some involvement, are given some input, in the process of calling, choosing and training their leaders, not to mention the way in which the ministry of leadership is carried out. It involves a kind of vigilance that would help to safeguard the integrity of those chosen to shepherd God’s people. For this to happen both sheep and shepherds have to play their part: the former to take an interest and the latter to give some space and opportunity for that interest to make some practical difference.

For example, we might consider how parishioners might take an active interest in encouraging those in the community in whom they recognize the necessary gifts for ministry. They might perhaps also be given some consultatory role at some point in the course of a seminarians training. Whatever may be the mechanics of it, such an approach to what Paul offers us in the first reading today might help to ensure and preserve the quality and integrity of those who serve as leaders in the church. Indeed, in some cases, it might even become a way by which the Body of Christ can raise an apparently dead or dying community to life, and help it to find its authentic voice in the world. Of course, as with everything else, there will be difficulties. There will be those who might be abuse their influence. Still, we may wonder if this is sufficient reason to leave things as they are. Perhaps what is needed is for us to cultivate the same compassion that moved Jesus to action in the gospel of today.

Today, how are we being called to the vigilance that brings life?

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