They devoted themselves
to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life,
to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone,
and many wonders and signs were done through 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.
Yesterday’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles was the same one that I read at my First Communion many years ago. I can always recognize it when it pops up in the Year A cycle of Sunday readings, mainly because when I read the last line, I hear an echo of my eight-year-old voice rehearsing it over and over: “And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” I practiced it carefully, making sure I was pronouncing each word just right. By the time my First Communion came, I had the whole thing memorized. I didn’t fully grasp the meaning of the words, even though I’d repeated them so many times over, but I liked them—they gave me a sense of warmth and hope.
They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.
These first Christians were risking everything to practice their faith, and yet they did so with exultant joy. They gave up property and possessions and became dependent on one another. Instead of putting their own needs first, they turned their lives upside down and served each other devotedly. What could possibly bring them to live such a radical life?
Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
These people had experienced the person of Jesus Christ and were transformed by Him. Some of these disciples had met Jesus in the flesh, both before and after His Resurrection, but others came to know Him only through the testimony of His apostles. And that is perhaps even more incredible: that the miracles that only Jesus could perform were now being carried out in His Name, through the hands of those He called and ordained. Through these ordinary men, people were drawn to the message of the Gospel and were converting in droves. Through the witness of the apostles, Jesus’s ministry was continuing and thriving. Even after His Ascension, He was present and fully alive. And just as the apostles carried out His work by making themselves receptive to His Spirit, we, too, are called to be His instruments here on earth. A deep Christian joy that transcends all earthly circumstances is possible for us, here and now, if we open our hearts to Christ and allow Him to transform us.
We, too, enter into this very same community through the breaking of the Bread. Every time we receive Communion, we strengthen our bond within the Body of Christ. The community described in Acts is the same community we claim as our own. What a gift is offered to us through the Eucharist: communion with Christ and communion with one another. The more we seek to receive Christ, the better we will be able to serve one another with joy.
Image: Rembrandt, Supper at Emmaus / PD-US