Fifth Sunday of Easter
The election of the deacons
At that time …the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. Acts 6,1-5
If today we put an ad in the newspaper to look for personnel to be devoted to serve tables, it would begin like this: “Cooks and waiters wanted”. On the contrary, the early apostles have chosen a different selection criterion: “Select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom”. They thus preferred the person, rather than the work experience. I confess that, in the past, when it happened to me , in my professional life, to employ personnel, my assessment criterion was very similar to the one of the apostles, and I have always hired valuable people. I use read the curriculum vitae, and the first two questions were about the past work activity, just to make sure that what was written was also true. Then I used to change topic and shift to personal questions, always leaving the freedom of not answering. “Are you married? How many children do you have? Are you divorced? What do you do in the evening when you come back home from work? How do you spend your Sundays? What are your hobbies”. And I stood back and listen, urging, occasionally, some details. With this method, I never took a wrong person. Sometimes, to be honest, I was answered: “What do these questions have to do with the job I should perform?”. At that, I talked back like this: “You see, we do not assume only a professional, but a man who, in a work environment, could create many more problems than he can solve as a professional”. One day, I had an interview with a technician for a working position in a site abroad. At a certain point, he confessed to me: “I am a former convict, and during my detention my wife has had a lover; now that I have come out, we would like start our life over again, letting it gone with the past. If you could let me have a small house for two in the site you have set up, I would be grateful”. I hired him, he had his house, he turned out an excellent employee and his wife was an excellent person; they finally came together to thank me. They are anecdotes from the past that come to my mind when I read this passage from the Acts of the Apostles that talks of the election of deacons.