Acts 11:21-26; 13:1-3
John 21: 20-25
There is great rejoicing today in the diocese of Pittsburgh. I see history being made this day comparable to what might be written in the Book of Acts of our own times. Interestingly, today is the feast of St. Barnabas, on whom the leaders of the early Church “laid hands and sent off.”
To the leaders of the community of Antioch, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” The leaders laid hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them off.
This account of the laying of hands on Barnabas and Saul could be repeated in the Pittsburgh papers and the Pittsburgh TV news stations this very day. Today in St. Paul’s Cathedral, Bishop David Zubik, Ordinary of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, will ordain forty three men to the permanent deaconate. There have been only two ordinations to the permanent deaconate in my life time, both times a small ordination group. Forty three men! This new phenomenon in our diocese will have an evangelical impact on our local Church that we cannot yet imagine.
Several of these men are friends of mine. For the whole four years of their tedious preparation, I’ve been proud of them, excited about their journey, and rejoicing with them. While I am indeed exuberant about this ordination, during the years of their preparation, there was something negative tugging at my joy, quite buried in my subconscious, but it was there. A few weeks ago, this piece of subconscious negativity inside of me came to light. I believe this “light” was a special grace – an embarrassment, yet a grace. I had been feeling resentment. None of us could prepare to be deacons. Deaconate is not open to women.
It was freeing to know what it was that had slightly restrained my joy.
By the gift of God’s grace, I didn’t lose my peace over this insight. Actually, pondering some of today’s Gospel, I come to a greater peace. I hear Jesus saying to me as he said to Peter, What if I want John to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? Perhaps, Jesus’ words could translate into: “What if these forty three are the folks I want to be ordained today? What concern is it of yours? Relax. I’m watching with loving care over these new deacons, over all the Church, and over all women of the Church. AS always, trust me.”
Sister Mary Clark is a Sister of Charity of Seton Hill living in Pittsburgh, PA.