The first reading today records the closing events of St. Paul and Barnabas’s first missionary journey. They were retracing their steps through four towns in east central Turkey. The farthest town they got to was Derbe. From there they went back through Lystra, Iconium and Antioch. Our account says that in each of the four towns they appointed the most worthy men to serve as presbyters.
I want to say something about presbyters. Following on the King James version, most Bibles translate the word presbyter as elder. We Catholics translate it as priests. We feel right in doing that, because if you check the word priest in Webster’s Dictionary you will see that it is derived from the word presbyter. So, obviously, those presbyters were appointed to do what our priests do.
An interesting thing about the word presbyter is where the word came from in pre-historic times. The word that tribesmen from central Asia had for an ox was “byt.” If they had more than one oxen, the lead one was called the “pres-byt.”
According to that, the priest should not behave like the man in the chariot, cracking his whip. He should be like the docile beast out there, pulling the load.