FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
OUR THEME FOR 2017
UNITY IN THE CHURCH – 2
April 23, 2017
Today’s reading: Acts 2:42-47
The one body of Christ on earth, which is the Church, was established by God on the day of Pentecost. There were basic elements in their life that bound them in unity.
First, “they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles” (v.42a). There was one Church teaching, given by the apostles. To have one faith, one belief, one Magisterium, is to ensure unity. Unfortunately today there are dissidents (clerics, theologians, prelates), mostly liberals, who want to overturn age-old teachings of the Church. And at times there is confusion, as in the case of Amoris Laetitia, with liberal and conservative prelates having opposing interpretations.
Second, “they devoted themselves …. to the communal life” (v.42b). To live as one community is to be united. They worshiped and had fellowship together. “Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes.” (v.46a). They grew intimately in their personal relationships. They opened their homes to one another. Unfortunately in many communities today (parishes, Church orgs, ecclesial movements), there is often division, brought about by many things, such as personal conflicts, envy, factionalism, etc.
Third, “they devoted themselves …. to the breaking of the bread” (v.42c). The Eucharist was the central aspect of their community life. Living the Eucharist ensured that they were growing in faith, being filled with grace, and being empowered by the Spirit. The Church, while earth-bound, is a divine institution, with its members sustained by what is truly divine, the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. Unfortunately, many Catholics no longer go regularly to Sunday Mass. And many who go do not really live out their faith. Such failure to grow in the holiness enabled by the Eucharist is what ends up in strife, division and even schism.
Fourth, “they devoted themselves …. to the prayers.” (v.42d). Prayer is basic communication with God. It fosters a relationship with God. Those who pray with devotion are those who focus themselves on Christ, and in their relationship with their brethren, they look to Christ, thus ensuring unity, even in disagreements. Unfortunately today prayer is neglected. Or prayer becomes rote. Or prayer is not God-centered but self-centered (asking for things; looking to personal well-being).
Fifth, they understood and embraced stewardship. “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.” (v.44-45). To know that everything belongs to God (including everything we call “ours”), to know that we are mere stewards of earthly resources, to be willing to selflessly dispose of property not for personal gain but to be able to help those in need, all these helped bring unity. No division between rich and poor, haves and have-nots. No holding on to things but freely giving. Unfortunately today many Catholics do not practice proper stewardship. They do not give much for the support of the Church’s work. Either they do not know about tithing, or they know but simply cannot part with 10% of their income to give to the community. Thus they are physically together in community but do not hold all things in common. This weakens unity.
Sixth, they were busily engaged in the work of evangelization. Their work was rapid and massive, such that “every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (v.47b). To be focused on the work, assaulting the one enemy, with single-minded resolve to win souls for the Kingdom, these help ensure unity. Unfortunately today many lay Catholics are not evangelizing. They do not even know about evangelization and mission. They are not engaged. When God’s people are not out on mission, they end up quarreling with each other. But engaged in raging spiritual war, God’s people need to be united.
So God established the Church, and showed her the way to live their communal life, such that they were truly one body. They had formation, a communal life, the Eucharist, a prayer life, service with stewardship, and mission. These are the key to being authentic Church. These are the key to unity in the body.
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