Let the First Christians Lead Us
BY KELVIN BANDA – Acts 4:32-37 shows us what true Christian community is like. Why is it that we do not experience such generous love today within the Church? We have become very private in our faith.
Communion is the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level. The word communion is defined as the act of sharing, or holding in common; participation (1 Corinthians 10:16).
Historically speaking, this privacy began when the people’s language evolved beyond Latin and they could no longer understand what the priests were saying during Mass. The laity began quietly to say the Rosary and other devotions to connect them with God while the priest went ahead with the liturgy.
In some of the larger churches, every side altar had a priest saying his own Mass at the same time. Although everyone came together to worship the Lord, the sense of sharing in as a community was lost.
Community and generosity are closely linked. Preaching in a homily in February, Fr Paul Decock of St Joseph’s Theological Institute in Cedara, KwaZulu-Natal, put it like this: The Book of Acts shows a community where there is the gift of self, acceptance of others, solidarity, generosity and genuine sharing.
He continued: One crucial aspect of love is self-giving and on the cross, this self-giving has been revealed in a tragic way.
The generous spirit that the early Christians felt is a natural outgrowth of first noticing a need in someone else and then caring enough to get involved.
What they did for each other was not all that amazing. When they sold their property to help others, they did not make themselves homeless; they distributed what they could according to what was needed.
Today we often do that for family members, but often we do not even know what our parishioners need, never mind feeling connected to them enough to make sacrifices for them.
Experiencing the Spirit of Communion should be not just in the religious communities or within our homes with only family members; it is far more than that. We need to open our inner selves to allow others to experience and feel the love and generosity of God in us.
Generosity grows from love. The more we love people, the more we want to be generous with them.
Look again at how the first Christians related to one another. See how they were of one heart and one mind.
This does not mean they always agreed on everything. Their unity came from caring about each other. Their caring started in the communal worship experience and continued outside of Mass through on-going interaction.
In John 3:7-15, Jesus tells us that to understand the things of heaven; we have to be begotten of the Holy Spirit. It is one thing to know Jesus personally, but God wants more than that for us, because heaven is so much more.
On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon a community upon a group of people whose lives were intertwined. Generosity is a sign of a vibrant, healthy community. In heaven, love is everywhere. We call this the communion of saints.
Yet we think of communion as a private experience of receiving the Eucharist. It is not! It is a coming together, becoming one in community through Christ. We walk up to the minister of the Eucharist as individuals and we return to our pews as a community, that is, as the community of saints singing the Communion song together. Really we ought to sing, not kneel in silent, private prayer after receiving Communion.
Fr Decock ended his homily by stating that the picture of the early Christian community has been an inspiration for so many renewal Christian movements in the world; it was an inspiration for the establishment of religious communities; it was also an inspiration for socialists and communist political programmes.
Hence, in heaven, we will care about everyone equally and we will be loved fully by everyone without prejudice. On earth, we cannot attain this love unless we rely on the Spirit of God within us (the Church) the Spirit of Love, the Spirit of Communion.