Tuesday, April 21, 2009

From Each According To Their Abilities; To Each According To Their Needs

Today's reading from the Acts of the Apostles gives us a glimpse into the life of the earliest Christian community. Not only were they of one mind and heart, they also shared a community of property and possession.  They were watchful and concerned for the needs of others, especially the less fortunate members of the community.  Their social philosophy is expressed in a few simple words:  From each according to their abilities; to each according to their needs. 

This unity of believers, this community of hearts and minds, seems like a pipe dream in today's world -- and even in today's Church.  Disputes over issues of politics, social justice, spirituality, have created chasms that divide us, and no one seems ready to listen, much less to seek common ground or build bridges.  How often have we criticized someon without our own Catholic community because they don't practice or believe in precisely the same way that we do.  Waterboarding enemy captives  or  using embryonic stemcells for research -- which will produce the greater good? 

Deeper than the ideological divide is the real division of the material realm.  In today's first reading, we see that there was no needy or poor person within the community.  There was no individual gain or profit, only the common good.  The common good is not an unknown concept within the Catholic Church; in fact, the communal concern for one another is the core of Catholic social teaching.  It was the attitude of Christ, and it was the principle that guided the early Christian communities.

Unfortunenately, it seems to be an attitude that may have been buried within the culture of consumerism.  Some of our cities with the highest proportion of Catholics have the greatest numbers of poor and needy people, people who are our own sisters and brothers in Christ.  Why is there such a gap between what we know Christ is calling us to do, and what we actually do, in our own daily, material world?

As we move forward in the joy of Easter and the Resurrection, let us keep in mind that Christ did not come only to save, but to teach us to love, to give of ourselves and our possessions in imitation of him.  Christ rejected his own authority and power as Son of God through the Incarnation, in order to ensure that our spiritual need would be met;  should we not do likewise for our brothers and sisters, to help them meet their material needs?   Let us pray that the Holy Spirit may show us how to restore our Church to the communal love and unity of that early Christian community.  

inspired by a reflection by Miriam Thorn, a Junior Theology Major at Creighton University. 

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