A Community of Believers
Homily for April 8, 2018 2nd Sunday Easter - B
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi Divine Mercy Sunday
Happy Easter! As we conclude the Octave of Easter and our celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection, for the rest of the Easter Season we shift our focus to living as a community of believers in the Resurrected Christ.
The first reading for Mass almost every day from now until Pentecost will come from the Acts of the Apostles, and will be about the development of the early Church and the continuation of Jesus’ ministry on earth by his disciples. Today’s first reading focuses on what the first Christian communities looked like and how they acted.
It begins with: “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.” Earlier in Acts, chapter 2, we hear the same thing: “All who believed were together and had all things in common.” Acts chapter 2, verse 44.
“(H)ad everything in common.” Sounds a bit unrealistic for us today, doesn’t it. I’m not expected to share my house or car or my other expensive toys with others, am I? And I certainly don’t have to sell them and give the proceeds away to those who didn’t work for them or who don’t have the ambition to make it on their own, do I? After all, I EARNED them, right?
The opening line from today’s first reading brings back memories of my teen years in the late sixties and early seventies – the age of Communism and hippie communes.
It was a time when the word “communal” didn’t carry a positive connotation, with images of forced labor farms in Russia or drug-crazed drop-outs from society running around in the woods. Surely that wasn’t what the early Christian communities looked like, did they?
Yes and no.
If we look at true Christian communities today, we see that they have some of the same characteristics as the early Christian communities did back then, as revealed in Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2, starting with verse 42:
• “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles – that would be religious study of scripture and of the leaders of the Church, like our bible study programs and other spiritual reading;
• To the communal life – that would be the loving care of each other through self-sacrifice, constantly thinking of the other person first, like our volunteer efforts and our charitable giving programs;
• To the breaking of the bread – that would be specifically the Eucharist, not just sharing a meal; and
• To the prayers – that’s not private prayer but the shared liturgical experience, what we would call “Mass” today, and other Sacramental activities.
So what’s the difference between the early communities and our communities today? I think that it can be found in the three words that begin verse 42: “They devoted themselves”. Devotion signifies priority, what is most important. They were Christ-centered, not life-centered (at least, not earthly life.) And, because they were Christ-centered, wonderful things happened:
“Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the Apostles” and “Great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them”.
Can we say that today? Have we eliminated the needy among us? Are we devoted to our faith in a way that fills us with awe at the mere thought of Jesus?
If not, then one way we can work on that devotion to our faith is through the new initiative that was introduced by our Bishop Burns on Friday called the “Be Golden Campaign." The campaign is based upon the Golden Rule and focuses on those who are marginalized in our society, especially the immigrant. The primary goal is to change our mindset, our attitude, to be more Christ-like.
And, to be more Christ-like it demands that we show mercy to those who we have the ability to show mercy, especially if we are to expect mercy in return. Jesus’ command to us in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 6:
“Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. … But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Lk 6: 31-36)
Be merciful. This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday. Mercy is not forgiveness; forgiveness can only be extended by the person who was harmed. Mercy is the ability to prevent or alleviate the suffering of another by someone who has the power to do so, whether it is justified or not. God extends mercy to us out of His love for us, even when we do not deserve or have not “earned” that mercy; we are called to do the same. Members of the early Church communities extended mercy to one another when they used their own resources to make sure that “There was no needy person among them”.
God has granted all of us an ability to show mercy to others. We too are in need of mercy – from others in our lives and especially from God. It’s what we celebrated last Sunday – the ultimate sign of God’s love and mercy – the Passion of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today’s Gospel concludes with, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in His name.”
Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Are you truly devoted to Him? Does your life reflect that devotion? If not, then during this Easter Season, you have some work to do.
Frankly, so do I.