In today’s First Reading, amidst the trials and travels of Paul’s missionary voyage, we see the Church starting to be more organized as it spreads geographically and grows numerically. Paul starts to appoint “presbyters” in each Church he founded; presbyter means “elder,” and some day this term would refer to what we now call the second degree of Holy Orders–priests–who collaborate with the first degree–bishops. In Paul’s time it gradually went from someone who worked more closely with an apostle due to knowing them as a trusted colleague to becoming more of an office, alongside other terms, such as episkopos, prophet, and teacher. No matter how it developed, presbyters participated in the ministry of the apostles for the good of the faithful and were valuable colleagues.
The apostles knew their work would have to outlive them, so in order to provide for the Church the apostolic and ecclesial ministry continued through their co-workers, like the presbyters, and even today bishops, priests, and deacons continue the work entrusted to them by the apostles and their successors. The need for priests today often outweighs the priests available to fill them. Let’s pray for vocations to the priesthood.
Readings: Acts 14:19–28; Psalm 145:10–13b, 21; John 14:27–31a. See also 5th Week of Easter, Tuesday.