About this time, when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews: in the daily distribution their own widows were being overlooked.
So the Twelve called a full meeting of the disciples and addressed them, ‘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.’
The whole assembly approved of this proposal and elected Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
The word of the Lord continued to spread: the number of disciples in Jerusalem was greatly increased, and a large group of priests made their submission to the faith.
The First reading at Mass today, the 5th Sunday of Easter, tells of the Church beginning to develop forms and structures that are more than an individual’s personal ministry or role. Here a distinction is made between what is to be expected of the Twelve, and what is entrusted to others.
This is presented by the Author of Acts as a differentiation which is of service to the word of the Lord and of benefit to the growth of the Church.
Over time such particular decisions may prove of lasting benefit or not. It is necessary, if the Church is to grow and the word of the Lord to spread, for us to carefully examine the structures we inherit and judge where they serve us well and where they do not.
The humility that this calls for is a challenge, always. In this respect it is perhaps notable that the Twelve did not themselves select the Seven, or invite them to put themselves forward, but entrusted the choice to the assembly as a whole.
- Where are you serving well? And where not?
- What might help your service to be more effective for God, Church and neighbourt?
The Twelve pray and lay hands on the Seven. Worcester Cathedral. (c) 2017, Allen Morris