Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Readings - Second Sunday in Easter

My son reported that his English teacher said last week that St. Thomas More, in the novel Utopia, espoused communism. Today's first reading might seem to support her, if we ignore the anachronism and confusion of communism with collectivism. "No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own."(Acts 4:32) What More described fit well with this, but such a unique individual, and one so devoted to the person of Christ, could scarcely advocate the loss of individuality inherent in collectivism (or socialism, communism). The Catholic faith reconciles both collectivism (of a sort) and individuality, for we celebrate the diversity of the Saints who each expressed the same Faith in different ways, yet all were responding to the same call. This is not a Faith which requires the loss of self, but understands that as each individual approaches perfection, they become both more unique and more like Christ. It is a paradox, not a contradiction.
Is it possible to order a society along lines close to Acts 4? To paraphrase the Gospel, for us it is impossible, but not for God. The key is found in Acts 2:42, and details the response of the early community to the inrush of the Holy Spirit: "They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers." (Acts 2:42)
This describes the right response to the gift of salvation and the Holy Spirit, and it is a requirement for the way of life known in the early Church. Without such devotion to truth and prayer, the communal life breaks down, and this can be found in the Hebrew Testament as well, forbidding sowing a field with two kinds of seed, plowing with ox and ass, or even cloth with two kinds of thread. (cf. Deut 22:9-11) Unity is required for community to work, not a forced unity aimed toward social justice, but a unity of love for God that has social justice as an inevitable outcome. The byproducts of love are sustained only when the love is divine, and cannot be manufactured or forced on their own.
So what Luke describes today must be seen as the result of the early Church's response to Pentecost, made possible by God's love, giving the community the power to unite in faith, worship and prayer. Everything good we find in that community is a consequence, not an ideology pursued or forced.

Readings for today

For another view of this, see Donne's Meditation 17.

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