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Having all things in common

April 27, 2014

A reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year A. The readings are: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 118; 1 Peter 1:3-9 and John 20:19-31.

I love Easter and I love the Easter Season. That’s the period of 50 days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost. One of the reasons I love the Easter Season is because we get to listen to the readings from my favourite book of the Bible: The Book of Acts. During the rest of the year, the first reading is always from the Old Testament, but during the Easter Season, the first reading is always from the Book of Acts. I love the Acts of the Apostles because it’s our story. This is the story of how a group of people responded to the Resurrection and built a Church. That’s our story. We are the Acts of the Apostles. And I love hearing stories about the early Church. I mean, this is maybe three months after the resurrection and we hear that the believers “devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles… to the prayers and the breaking of the bread.” (Acts 2:42) Two thousand years ago, 90 days after the resurrection, that’s what Christians were doing: learning from the teachings of the apostles; and the apostles taught them from the Hebrew Scriptures and from the life of Jesus and taught them what all that had to do with their lives; they gathered to pray and for the breaking of the bread. Two thousand years later, we’re still doing the same thing: learning from the apostles, praying together and breaking bread! I love that! It makes me feel like we are part of something big!

But there is one other quality to the life of early Christians that we’ve kind of lost. The Book of Acts tells us that the disciples devoted themselves to the “communal life” (Acts 2:42) and it also says that they “were together and had all things in common.” (Acts 2:44) I understand why this has been lost – it’s easy to have all things in common when there are only 50 people. 100 people would be hard, but it’s doable. But the Book of Acts says that “the Lord was adding great numbers to them” and that 5000 people were being baptised at a time – it’s hard to have all things in common with 5000 people. And today, there are 2.3 billion Christians around the world. Half of them are Catholic. That’s a lot of people to have all things in common. We are part of something big!

But “the communal life” is a very important aspect to our faith. The word that Luke uses in the original Greek is: “koinónia” – St. Paul uses the same word in his letters. Koinónia means “fellowship”, “communion”, “sharing in” or “spiritual fellowship”. That is why the Church is organized in parishes – we’re organized in community: koinónia. Because Faith is not an isolated act. Faith is not something we do on our own. Remember, Christianity is a relationship. God is not a God of isolation; He is a God of Communion; a God of togetherness; a Trinity. We cannot be in Communion with Christ, if we are not in Communion with each other, no matter how often we go to Communion.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church #166 says that even though faith is a personal act, faith is not an isolated act. Just as we do not give ourselves life, we do not give ourselves faith. Every believer has received faith from someone else and in turn should hand it over to others. The Catechism goes on to say, “I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.”

In fact, that is one of the symbolic meanings of the story of Thomas. Thomas doubted when “he was not with them”. He was out; he was off somewhere else alone. That’s why his faith faltered. His faith was strengthened once “he was with them” – once he was again with the community. If you are here faithfully every Sunday, maybe you even come to other parish events, but if you are not part of the community, it will affect your faith. Without koinónia your faith will not be sustained. Don’t think that you can keep the faith alone. Just going to Mass on Sunday is not enough. We have to participate in koinónia: communion and fellowship with each other. That’s why we get baptised into a parish. We get married in a parish. When we get confirmed, we do it in a parish. And isn’t it great that all parishes give us lots of opportunities to do just that? If you are an adult male, why not join the Knights of Columbus? Every Catholic man should be a member of the Knights of Columbus. And most parishes in North America have a KofC Council. If you are a woman i Canada you can join the Catholic Women’s League – or other women’s group. Maybe there’s a group for mothers in your parish. You can also join a choir, be a reader, or Eucharistic Minister. You can help your parish with catechism or sacramental prep or maybe join the social committee or any number of committees that your parish may have. Maybe you can help with that. In fact one of our activities in our parish is the Parish Shared Meal. The purpose of that meal is exactly so that you sit with someone that you don’t know and meet new people. The purpose of that meal is koinónia. If you’re feeling like your faith is not strong enough, or, like Thomas you’re doubting, speak with your priests or deacons and see how you can get involved in your parish community. If there is nothing that you’d like to do, maybe you can start something new!

And if you’re already involved in your parish community, remember that koinónia doesn’t stop at the parish. Remember that we are part of a larger family of faith that is your diocese. In the Archdiocese of Toronto, there are 1.8 million Catholics; 225 parishes, and the territory if from Lake Ontario in the south, north to the town of Penetanguishene; and from Orangeville in the west to Oshawa in the East.

If you’re already involved in your diocesan community, there are 70 dioceses across Canada; 13 million Catholics in our country – but we are not just the Catholic Church of Canada or your particular country; we are a universal church with 1.2 billion Catholics – we are part of something big !

Koinónia is why 2 million people  traveled to Rome for the Canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II and that’s because our koinónia doesn’t stop here in this life. We are part of a community of Saints; all souls in purgatory, all saints in Heaven are part of this community and we gather to celebrate canonizations because we recognize that we belong to this community and it is from now until eternity.

Let’s not be content to merely devote ourselves to the teachings of the apostles, the prayers and to the breaking of bread. Let’s also be committed to koinónia: to the communal life.

When we come to receive Communion today, let’s pray that we are not just coming into Communion with Christ, but that the Eucharist also brings us into communion with Catholics everywhere, in this life and the next, because we are part of something big!

Jesus is alive! Alleluia!

From → English, Reflections

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