Today’s first reading presents the idyllic image of the communal life of the first Christian community. We learn at the end of Chapter 4 in Acts that the people all have the same beliefs (as they are of one heart and mind), that they share all their possessions and own nothing individually, and perhaps most importantly, no one suffered as everyone had their needs met. The perfect Christian community to which we should all strive! Right? Perhaps. But, I don’t think the utopist description of Christian community is Luke’s primary point.
Perhaps Luke, the author of Acts, is describing the first Christian community as it actually existed. But, that does not mean that all members of the community always experienced Christian life as perfectly as today’s reading suggests. Why do I say this? Because Luke described some of the problems the community faced. The very next passage after today’s reading gives us one such challenge. In Acts Chapter 5, we learn that a couple sold their property but did not give all the proceeds to the community. (Worse still, they lied to the community about their generosity. Their lie to the community is what condemns them, not that they decided to retain control over some of their material possessions.) Then, at the beginning of Chapter 6, we learn that the Gentiles felt they were being treated differently than their Jewish counterparts, especially the widowed, one of the categories of God’s special underprivileged. If the Gentiles felt their widows were being neglected, there is a darn good chance that they also did not feel of one heart and mind with their Hebrew brothers and sisters. In this way, Luke himself suggests that the community of faithful did not always share their minds, hearts, and possessions with one another to insure everyone had all their needs met.
So, why is Luke telling us that the Christian community has these characteristics if they did not always live up to them? And, what hope is there for you and I in community with one another today? How can we respond to Jesus who in today’s Gospel challenges us to listen to him not only about earthly things but also about heavenly things?
I think what Luke is sharing with us today is not simply some lofty ideal for community. I bet that sometimes, on the very best of days, the community members actually resembled what Luke described in today’s reading. Just like you and me today in our Christian community. Sometimes, on our very best of days, we too resemble what Luke described. Sometimes, in our very best of days, we share essential beliefs with others and don’t sweat the non-essential beliefs. Sometimes, in our very best of days, we share our possessions with others knowing we will not see these items again. (Ever loan/give money to a friend or relative?) Sometimes, in our very best of days, we strive to meet the needs of others around us. Sometimes, in our very best of days, we are Luke’s community. And, the rest of the time? Well, we are Luke’s community then too! (smile)
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