April 17th. Tuesday of 2nd Week of Easter
Acts 4:32ff. Luke describes the spirit of sharing among those early Christians.
John 3:7ff. Only the Son of Man can reveal heavenly things
An ideal, united community?
Today’s Scripture presents such an idealised version of the unity of life, mind and possessions in the early Church, that we wonder can it really be achieved in our times. True, for a time the early Christians in Jerusalem pooled all their resources, and there was no one in financial distress, at least for a while. Later, however, their destitution was such that Paul has to take up a collection during his travels in Greece for the sake of the Jerusalem community. Communal sharing of goods remained an ideal but was quickly abandoned as a prescribed way of life.
The idealism of those early Christians draws admiration and a nostalgic desire to relive such idyllic days. How wonderful if we could all share our goods, care for one another, share equally in wealth and poverty, and find our contentment and strength in shared love and God’s protecting providence. Yet, doesn’t it often happen that our gifts and talents, our ideals and hopes, provoke disunity and divide us one from another? We become too demanding. We insist that others follow our insights which happen to be different from their insights and talents. The artist tends to be too impractical for the administrator, the person of talent becomes personally ambitious, the capable leader turns into a dictator, the scholar demands our consent before we have time to think out the question.
Harmony comes not by suppressing the gifts of the Spirit, but by humbly realizing that no one has a corner on all the gifts. Each gifted person needs all other talented people, in order to be a balanced, normal human being. Tensions then are healthy, because they prevent us from speeding in any single direction and overlooking other turns and possibilities. Tensions also remind us that gifts are given, not so much to be personally and individually activated and fulfilled, but rather to be shared in the joy and love of family. In other words, none of us, no matter how perfectly we may have fulfilled ourselves, can be saved unless our talents have been shared with others and balanced with the gifts possessed by others. Community not only balances us, lest our gifts get out of hand, but it also brings extraordinary grace into our lives, because there is where the Spirit dwells.
First Reading: Acts 4:32-37
Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Gospel: John 3:7-15
Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus aswered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.