Acts 4:32 Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.
Probably one of the most feared of all the biblical verses. Yes, more so than Mark’s report on Jesus’ view on divorce, more so than Paul’s teaching on homosexuality, even more so than Jesus’ proclamation to Peter! Socialism! The bible shows it, teaches it, and as Americans, we fear it. I have seen it (socialism) fail, ruin people’s lives, and enrich men that discovered they could gain obscene wealth from the system. So what do we do with this verse? Should we ignore those crazy early Christians? Are these strange ways that should be read but not followed? If this is so, which other verses would we like to put aside? We reach a very dangerous fork in the road at this point; if we put aside one teaching and chose to pick up another, we make ourselves the Church, deciding what to believe and what to ignore. So many hate the infallibility doctrine, but every day, so many make these decisions and live their life by their own “infallible proclamation”; “I will not follow this section of scripture”. We might not make this decree formally, but we do, in a casual manner proclaim; “God won’t mind”, or “I hope God has a sense of humor”, or “God extends grace to cover me making these decisions”.
It’s in scripture, what should we do with it? Ignore it at your own peril.
So Wooten is a socialist? Absolutely not, I stand by my statement above. Why is this in scripture then? What is God trying to show us?
Communion, by definition and practice.
But lets divide this in two sections, one that is simple to understand, but hard to practice, the other hard to understand but more simple than we could imagine to practice.
- Money is not the end all of existence. We should share with those who are in need. I am quick to tell the person who merely wants more stuff to work for it. I am equally quick to tell the person wasting their life in sloth and gluttony (addiction) to gain help and submit to authority. However I am quicker to help the person truly in need, this is simple, this is Christianity. When we share we practice communion. We give of ourselves, just as Christ gave of Himself. Have you ever given your last dollar away? It hurts. It is sacrifice. It is participation in the divine life. Communion. But this is a one time thing. (amazing how many people will not even perform this one time act of mercy) Let’s imagine something more difficult…
- Living in communion. What could this “communion” life be? Lets look at the definition first. The catechism states:
357: Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead.
Living in communion is to take on the very image and life of God. Individuals who show a godly dignity, who freely give of God’s blessings to their own life, and are self aware of themselves and their actions live the divine life. Think about this for a moment. Who are the people in your life, past and present, that have shown these traits. What did they mean to you? If you cannot imagine such a person, imagine how you would be different had you known someone like this. People who live the divine life are agents of change, they bring the low to rejoice, they spread love and they leave a trail of better people behind them.
So now that we have these people in our minds, hopefully with smiles on our faces from the memory, let me propose something more. What if you put 500 of these people together? Can you imagine? That is the parish church. Impossible you say!? I have seen churches that have gotten very close to this communion. People who live, work and play together; a joyful experience.
People living together. (insert record scratch here) Are we talking commune? No. But healthy growing churches all share a common life. They work together for the greater good, they worship together, and they play together. This means everyone, not just portions of everyone. But this is the rub, isn’t it? One loves to cut the lawn, but hates to work in the night shelter, another likes street ministry, but hates to sweep floors, still another likes to worship, but wants nothing to do with others. Now we have a broken communion. What if the one gave of himself and worked the night shelter, and what if the other gave of himself and swept the floors every now and then and still the other gave of themselves and sat and befriended someone new every week? We would have a lot of sacrificing going on, and we would once again have communion. To live in communion, we must sacrifice. As we walk into mass, knowing the sacrifice that is about to take place; lets not smile and say to ourselves how happy we are that Christ suffered and died for us, lets reciprocate and let Christ know that we to will sacrifice this week for the greater good! It is the sacrifice that makes communion.
Now lets dare to dream bigger. Lets think of millions, hundreds of millions even; living in communion. Now you have Christ’s wish that we all could be as one. The Catholic Church, as it should be. A world full of the best people we have ever known. This is the goal we strive for. Put our differences aside, our wants, likes, dislikes, and sacrifice them for the greater good. Don’t worry, as we sacrifice, God finds ways to give us all we want, He is giving and loves each and every one of us. He rejoices in rewarding us for trying our upmost to live like Him, in communion.