Bob Marley and the Wailers had it right when they hummed sweetly, “One love. One heart. Let’s get together and feel alright. Give thanks and praise to the Lord.” This is exactly what the apostles at the finally of Acts are doing. We read,
“They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done though the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
Aside from the point that sometimes I romantically idealize the apostles as first century hippies who loved reggae, this scripture sounds a lot like monastic life. William S. Kurz, SJ writes that, “monastic communities, in which monks literally surrender all worldly goods to the common account,” were inspired by the first communities in Acts. In college I was blessed to spend time with some friends discerning religious life. They would do the above things every day. Pray in the morning together as brothers and then separately, just Jesus and them. They would celebrate mass (break bread) daily. Devote themselves to scripture and theological studies and carve out a night of fellowship so they could spend time together.
Once I asked about the nice car one of the Friars owned. He told me it was his, but once he entered the community, anyone of his friar brothers could use it because now it was communal property. He also told me that living in community with the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience was a great sacrifice, but the graces and blesses were abundant and boundless, it made the sacrifice seem small in comparison. Another amazing friar I would meet, shared his vocation story during a homily at the daily mass. He said that he was very wealthy before entering religious life. He had the most expensive car on the market, a successful job, a great education, and a beautiful girlfriend. He generously gave it up to live in a community where prayer and joy reign as higher goods. I love this scripture because it shows us the power of surrendering our material goods. When our friends are in need we are called to be generous with the material goods God has blessed us with. All too often we can have the attitude of possessiveness. Look at the world around us. People are starving in other continents when there is PLENTY of food to go around. Someone on the street asks us for change and all too easily we can say, “oh but I need it for MY lunch.” God will provide for us when we provide for others! The first apostles are a perfect example of this way of thinking and acting.
Reflection: We act as the apostles did when we go to mass. We live with all things in common when we tithe (give part of your income to your local church). We do this physically and symbolically when we offer the gifts of bread and win to the priest during mass. We do this when we put money into the collection basket that passes above our laps. It’s important to remember we are not “paying the priest” with this money. The Church is everyone’s home and everyone’s responsibility. The Church (we are the Church by the way) isn’t being greedy for OUR money (wrong mentality). We are participating in the communal life just like the first apostles. One Love. One heart. Shalom. Xoxo.