Day 327: Origin of the Diaconate

Ch 6:1-7 Jews of the Diaspora-Greek for “dispersion”-who had lived for a long period of time in the Greek-speaking regions outside of Palestine but had resettled in Judea were said to be “Hellenized” Jews, or “Hellenists.” They spoke and worshiped in Greek, used a Greek translation of Scripture called the Septuagint, and were somewhat assimilated into Greek culture. For these reasons, there was some tension between Hellenist Christians and Hebrew Christians. An example of this strained relationship was reflected in the Hellenist’s accusation of the unfair treatment of Hellenist widows. (CCC 595, 1229-1230, 1829, 2247, 2632)

Ch 6:2-6 Deacons: The Greek diakonos means “servant,” or “minister.” These first seven deacons were to take over the charitable distribution of food and other material needs so as to allow the Apostles to preach and celebrate the Eucharist. All seven had Greek names and were probably Hellenist Christians. By the second century, deacons were also fulfilling liturgical function and apostolic endeavors. Today, men who are preparing for ordination to the priesthood are ordained transitional deacons for a period of time. Men of good standing can also be ordained as permanent deacons to serve in parish work or other ministries. Their liturgical functions include presiding at baptisms, witnessing marriages, distributing Holy Communion, reading the Gospel and preaching homilies at Mass, and officiating at burial rites. (CCC 1569-1571, 1578)

Ch 6:4 Devote ourselves to...the word: Prayer is a means of participation with the apostolic mission given to the Church by Christ. (CCC 2624-2625)

Ch 6:6-7 Laid their hands upon them: A symbol of consecration and transfer of power for a particular task. It is a sacramental sign of ordination and may have indicated the conferral of Holy Orders on these men. Laying on of hands is used in the ordination of deacons, priests, and bishops as well as in the Sacrament of Confirmation; it is also a gesture used informally in other nonsacramental contexts, such as prayers for healing. (CCC 1288-1289)

Ch 6:8-15 Stephen, one of the first deacons, would become the first martyr for Christ. Luke tells his story here in such a way that it parallels in some respects the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. In this passage, for example, Stephen was reviled for his preaching, falsely accused as a blasphemer and of speaking against the Temple and the Law of Moses, and accused much as Christ was. He was arrested, brought before the Sanhedrin, and eventually stoned to death. Like Christ, he prayed for his executioners. (CCC 2473)

Ch 6:9 Freedmen: A community of Hellenist Jews who had heated disagreements with Stephen.

Romans 9:1-5 Paul may have been accused of abandoning Israel in order to preach to the Gentiles. He denied this, stating that he ardently desired the salvation of Israel. His writings clearly manifest that he always sought out and preached to the Jews first in every city he visited.

My the Holy Spirit: In light of what was written in the previous chapter (cf. 8:26-27), the Holy Spirit knows Paul’s heart and attests to the truth of his words. The heart is where we encounter God. (CCC 1795, 2563)

Ch 9:4-5 The Jewish faith was a response to what God had revealed through the Law, patriarchs, and prophets of the Old Covenant. This pride of place linked the Jews with the Christians, who accepted Jesus as the Messiah promised to Israel. (CCC 839-840, 449)

Ch 9:6-13 Paul argued on behalf of the Gentiles. He explained that not all who had descended from Jacob (also named Israel) and Abraham were automatically true sons of Israel, heirs of the promises of God. It was not the bloodlines that made them children of God but rather a living faith expressed in a holy life. Therefore, everyone who is willing to be faithful to Jesus Christ and his teachings will qualify as an heir to his kingdom. (CCC 2009)

Ch 9:11 Because of his call: It is by God’s invitation, not necessarily by merit, that some are chosen over others. (CCC 160, 1025)

Ch 9:13 Hated: This expression is not nearly as strong as it sounds. The sense is closer to “did not prefer” or “loved less.”

Ch 9:14-33 Paul again raised the issue of predestination. God knew and foresaw everything and created us knowing who would sin and who would be saved, even at times using our sins to carry out his will (e.g., the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart and the condemnation of Jesus to Death). These considerations may beg the question of human freedom: “To God, all moments of times are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of ‘predestination,’ he includes in it each person’s response to grace” (CCC 600). The distinction is between causing a person to sin and permitting that person to freely choose to sin. (CCC 600)

Ch 9:14-18 God’s love includes but at the same time goes beyond justice since it favors patience, mercy, and forgiveness over a strictly proportionate punishment for sin. It is certainly possible to choose to remain hardened by sin and resolute in rejecting the grace of God. (CCC 1431-1432)

Ch 9:21-24 God, while always respecting our freedom, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, molds us according to his own purposes.

Made for destruction: God does not predestine anyone for damnation; rather, he allows people, after many invitations and overtures to repent, to reject him freely and face the consequences of that choice. (CCC 600)

Ch 9:25-29 Even though the people of Israel repeatedly violated their covenant with God, he nevertheless set aside a remnant of the Jews to form a new people along with those of the Gentiles who responded to his call. (CCC 710-711, 1081)

Ch 9:30-32 The Jews who sought righteousness through keeping the Law alone failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. It then followed that they deprived themselves of the gifts of faith, which is primarily manifested in loving as Christ loved. This New Commandment of Love implicitly includes the entire body of Christ’s teachings. (CCC 16, 577, 1983)

Ch 10:1-21 God can bring good even out of the evil choices. When Israel was unfaithful, God, who shows mercy to all, invited the Gentiles to salvation. The Gentiles who were receptive to the Word of God needed to hear it preached, hence the mission of Paul and others to take the Gospel to the entire world. Though the Mosaic Law was revealed by God, only in Christ does it reach its perfection. Living in Christ by reproducing his life through the infusion of grace is the heart of the New Covenant. (CCC 702, 1961, 1965-1966, 1972)

Ch 10:1-4 Brethren, my heart’ saved: In Christian prayer, intercessory prayer is offered for virtually everyone and for every good, including the salvation of those who reject the message of Christ.

They have a zeal...enlightened: Paul was aware of the effects of excessive ignorance and casuistic practice of every facet of Jewish tradition. Observance of the Law was emphasized by the Pharisees to such an extreme that it obscured the spirit behind the Law.

The end of the law: “End” is used here in the sense of purpose, or goal. Christ came not to repeal the Law but to fulfill and perfect it. (CCC 579, 1953, 1977, 2632, 2636)

Ch 10:5-8 Since recognition of Jesus as Messiah requires faith expressed in a willing acceptance of his teaching, it was certainly not obvious to everyone that he is the Christ. Nevertheless, it is at least a partial mystery that many of the Jewish people failed to accept Christ as their Savior since Scripture prophesied his coming; he lived, ministered, and died in their own land; and his Word continued to be preached through his Apostles and disciples everywhere.

Who will descend into the abyss?: Christ descended into the abode of the dead after his Death, where he preached the news of salvation to all who had died and were awaiting redemption in order to enter Heaven. (CCC 635)

Ch 10:9 If you confess...saved: Baptized Christians have an obligation to witness their faith and to practice it courageously. The Creed, or Profession of Faith, summarizes a number of points of doctrine that are essential to the Faith of the Church. (CCC 13-14, 186-187, 209, 449)

Ch 10:12 No distinction between Jew and Greek: Whether Jew or Gentile, everyone is called to salvation and knowledge of the truths taught by Christ. (CCC 791)

Ch 10:13 To pray in the name of Jesus, which means “YHWH saves,” is to invoke him as Savior, to welcome him, and carry on a dialogue with him. (CCC 2666, 2739)

Ch 10:14-21 Paul stressed the importance of his mission to preach the Gospel to all nations. Salvation presupposes knowledge of Christ and his doctrine. The vehicle for an introduction to Christ is through those who preach the Gospel by their example and word. Furthermore, sanctifying grace is bestowed through the administration of the Sacraments through Christ’s ordained ministers.

Jealous: The verse from Deuteronomy was a prophecy referring to the Jews’ anger over the Gentiles’ inclusion in God’s plan of salvation (cf. Dt 32:31).

I have been found...ask for me: The Gentiles accepted the Gospel without seeking it, while many in Israel who sought the Messiah in the wrong manner did not recognize him (cf. Is 65:1). (CCC 875)

Ch 10:17 This verse describes the evangelical mission. Christ communicates his truth to the Church, who receives it in faith and proclaims it to the world. The Apostles and the early Church faithfully transmitted the Deposit of Faith first by word of mouth and later in writing. The oral tradition preceded the inspired books of the New Testament. (CCC 75-77)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Key Event 66b: Choosing of the Seven (Diaconate) (Acts 6:1-7)

To enable the apostles to preach the Word of God freely, seven deacons are ordained to serve the poor, a ministry that empowers the growth of the Church (Acts 6:7).

Key Event 66c: Stephen Martyred (Acts 6:8-7:60)

Stephen, one of the deacons ordained in Acts 6, becomes the Church's first martyr. His death has numerous parallels with that of Jesus, showing that Christian life is a recapitulation of Christ's life in us.

  • Sometimes you pray and you’re just like, “Man! I don’t know what else to say!” (And this is why I just say an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be whenever I am asked to pray out loud...I’m not good at spontaneous prayer but after all these days with Fr. Mike, I think I can get better, what about you? 😉)

  • Because there are SO MANY THINGS to be thankful for today

  • As we have often said in this community, it is SO BIG

  • It is such a LARGE community and we know that today could be your worst day

  • So we are definitely praying for you

  • AND YET…

  • At the same time, for every one of us, there is always so much to be thankful for

  • Today we have Acts of the Apostles Ch 6...only 15 verses long!

  • We have the Seven Chosen to Serve

  • We have this term HELLENISTS

  • So who were the HELLENISTS?

  • They were basically Greek speaking Jews from the dispersion

  • They had their own synagogues in Jerusalem and they read their Scripture in Greek

  • So they were a little different

  • They read the Septuagint, the Greek language translation of the Old Testament

  • So they were kind of separate

  • There is already this cultural division that is happening

  • So we have Gentile Christians, or Greek speaking Christians

  • And we have Jewish Christians

  • The Hellenists believed that their widows were neglected in the daily distribution

  • Actually, it doesn’t even say they believed that

  • Acts 6:1, “...the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.”

  • So basically here is the Christian community and they are taking care of widows and orphans

  • BUT…

  • Some of these people who were part of a different group of Christians were being NEGLECTED

  • So let’s look at this

  • This is Ch 6 of the Church

  • The Church begins essentially

  • Jesus said he’d build his Church upon the Apostle Peter, on that Rock

  • So in Ch 2 we had Pentecost and the birth of the Church

  • Now here we are four chapters later and already there are some issues

  • There are factions

  • Later on in 1 Corinthians we will see even more factions that are even greater

  • IN FACT…

  • We are going to see that in the Acts of the Apostles

  • So some people are being treated differently from others

  • That is not good

  • BUT…

  • It is not unexpected, if that makes any sense

  • Because while the Holy Spirit is the SOUL of the Church, so it is DIVINE, the Church is STILL MADE UP OF HUMAN BEINGS



  • So what happens?

  • Acts 6:2, “And the Twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.”

  • Although that is really important to take care of widows and orphans

  • So they decide to choose seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom who could be appointed to these duties

  • Basically, this this is the beginning of the DIACONATE

  • The Greek word here that Luke uses is DIAKONOS which means “to serve”

  • In the Catholic Church we have DEACONS

  • And other churches have them as well

  • There are some things to note about deacons

  • They are ORDAINED

  • Acts 6:6, “These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them.”

  • So here was an ACTUAL ORDINATION

  • It wasn’t like someone volunteered and said, “Oh I’ll do it. I’ll serve.”

  • This is actually an ORDER in the early Church

  • The Apostles knew they were the EPISKOPI or the BISHOPS

  • They knew that they were the PRESBYTEROI or the PRIESTS

  • And now we have the DIAKONOI or the DEACONS

  • Not only that, but the very next thing…

  • Acts 6:8, “And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.”

  • Basically he goes out and starts preaching and healing

  • Wait a second, bro!

  • You were just ordained to serve a table!!

  • But here you are doing this supernatural ministry which is remarkable and incredible!!

  • That maybe wasn’t what the Apostles had intended

  • BUT…

  • It seems like that was what God had intended

  • Tomorrow we will find out what happens to Stephen

  • Because he gives witness to Christ and he becomes the first MARTYR in the Church (HEY FR. MIKE!! SPOILERS DUDE!!! 🤯🤯🤯)

  • Now the Church always considers the HOLY INNOCENTS, those who were killed by Herod’s order as sort of PROTO-MARTYRS

  • St. John the Baptist is kind of a PROTO-MARTYR as well

  • BUT…

  • The first FULLY CHRISTIAN MARTYR is St. Stephen

  • Today we also have Romans Chs 9 and 10

  • Just imagine

  • St. Paul begins, “I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying...I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.”

  • Why?

  • Because he has so many brethren who are part of the Jewish people who are not responding to Jesus as the Christ

  • They are not responding to Jesus as the fulfillment of EVERYTHING THAT GOD HAD PROMISED

  • Romans 9:3, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”

  • “I could wish this, that these my kinsmen according to the flesh would be able to come to know Jesus Christ.”

  • That is the heart of a TRUE FOLLOWER OF CHRIST

  • To be desperate for those people who DON’T know Christ

  • That sense of “I WOULD DO ANYTHING!”


  • So many of us who are part of this community have people in our lives who have left the faith

  • Maybe your parents don’t know who Christ is

  • Every one of us has people in our lives who we love SO MUCH who have either never said YES to Christ

  • OR

  • They have said YES but they have walked way

  • Then we say the same thing as St. Paul

  • “I could wish that I myself were cut off, if they would just come to know who Jesus Christ is. If they would just come to know that he established his Church and that they have a home there, they belong there.”

  • Romans 9:4-5, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”

  • This is REMARKABLE

  • We have journeyed through the entire Old Testament

  • So we KNOW what St. Paul is talking about


  • The things that are not written in the Old Testament, but they were part of Jewish religious life, part of their spiritual culture

  • We know all this

  • To them belong the sonship

  • The glory

  • The covenants

  • The giving of the law

  • The worship

  • The promises


  • The patriarchs

  • They have been given SO MUCH!!

  • AND YET…

  • They aren’t recognizing Jesus

  • AND YET....

  • At the same time, we already know that thousands and thousands of Jews DID come to know who Jesus was

  • The early Church was primarily made up of Jewish people who became Christian, who saw Jesus as the fulfillment

  • So that’s important for us to remember

  • St. Paul wonders why is that happening

  • Essentially he says, “This is the way things go.”

  • There are those who will come to see the truth about Jesus and will respond with their whole hearts

  • There are those who will hear the Word of God and they will respond by surrendering their lives to him

  • And there are those who will hear the Word of God and they will NOT surrender their lives to him

  • Romans 9:16, “So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy.”

  • Now the Scripture goes back to Exodus

  • Romans 9:17-18, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills.”

  • This is the mystery of having faith or not having faith

  • Some people can hear the Word of God and respond, and let it soften their heart, and remember

  • OR…

  • Some people can hear the Word of God and it can HARDEN THEIR HEART

  • Remember, God never does evil

  • So hardening one’s heart is not the result of God’s choosing to harden one’s heart, to drive them away from him

  • BUT…

  • We CHOOSE to harden our hearts in the face of God

  • BUT…

  • The POTTER gets to be in control

  • This is one of those mysteries of God’s Wrath and Mercy

  • The mystery of being chosen and called

  • The mystery of predestination

  • The mystery of saying yes to God or NOT saying yes to God

  • In Romans Ch 10 there is something SO POWERFUL

  • Romans 10:9-10, “Because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.”


  • That role of faith in our lives

  • We are SAVED by Grace through faith working itself out in love

  • That’s the Catholic formulation

  • We are saved by GRACE which is a completely free gift

  • Through FAITH which is OUR response to that completely free gift

  • As St. Paul says here, “Confess with your lips. Believe in your heart.”

  • That’s faith, right?

  • IN FACT…

  • In Romans Ch 1 St. Paul says, “The OBEDIENCE of faith.”

  • So it’s not MERELY confessing with our lips and believing in our hearts

  • BUT…

  • It actually gets to the point of OBEDIENCE

  • We would formulate that we are saved by GRACE, through FAITH, working itself out in LOVE, that we LIVE as we BELIEVE, that we BELONG TO THE LORD

  • Romans 10:13, “For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

  • Romans 10:14, “But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?”

  • Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.”

  • This is why Jesus NEEDS TO BE TALKED ABOUT

  • This is why Jesus NEEDS TO BE PROCLAIMED

  • This is why we are doing the Bible in a Year

  • Why?

  • Because it’s one thing to read our Bibles

  • It’s super important to read them

  • I wonder if there is not this mysterious power that comes when God’s word is HEARD

  • Not merely READ off the page

  • But actually HEARD PROCLAIMED

  • I think there is something there

  • Here we are having journeyed 327 days and so many people have reached out and said, “There’s something different about HEARING God’s Word than just me reading it on the page.”

  • Now obviously, IT IS GOD’S WORD

  • So we are not going to take anything away from reading the Bible

  • But isn’t this fascinating that St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans Ch 10 talks about not just the POWER of God’s Word but the power of HEARING God’s Word

  • I think there’s something there

  • I don’t know what it is

  • BUT…

  • I think it’s there

  • Anyways…

  • As we said, we know that there are many of our friends and family who don’t have faith so we are praying for them

  • And even US

  • There can be days when we STRUGGLE TO BELIEVE



  • SO…

  • We NEED prayers

  • We NEED grace


  • BUT…




  • So that we can ALL be united in saying ONE GIANT YES to the Father who LOVES US!!


Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and thank you always everyday. Gosh, Lord, we thank you so much. Thank you for having chosen us to be your beloved. Thank you for choosing us to make us yours. Thank you for sending your Spirit that transforms our hearts and thank you for giving us the gift of faith. We make this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.”