Using gifts for the good of all - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Using gifts for the good of all

I have always loved the passage from the Acts of the Apostles that is the second reading on this Second Sunday of Easter.

Its attraction for me rests in the qualities of the early community of believers in Jerusalem. They are described as being “of one mind and one heart.” It is said of them that “no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own but they had everything in common.”

In addition, we are told “there was no needy person among them”. That was because those who owned property or houses sold them and presented the proceeds to the apostles, who distributed them to the people according to their need.

It seems clear from other portions of the Acts of the Apostles that the above description did not apply to the whole community — certainly not for any length of time. And others of the books of the New Testament contain much concern about rivalry, factions and jealousies within and among some of the early Churches.

Yet it seems likely that such idyllic conditions existed at least for a time among some notable segments of the community. I have wondered if those special graces of unity and generosity were linked to the great power with which the Apostles bore witness to the Resurrection. Acts tells us that they did so preach and that “great favor was accorded them all.” Might that favor have been such unity and generosity in the community?

Through the history of the church, we have had our ups and downs. When we are at our best, we can find unity in our quest for common values, and we can be uncommonly generous toward one another and to those in need.
But we can also be no less susceptible to the factions, rivalries and jealousies that plagued some of the early communities and have been a part of our experience all through the centuries. We have to acknowledge that some polarization does exist in the church today. I don’t think that it should lead us to discouragement — and certainly not to panic.

But it should keep us humble and honest before the Risen Lord, who is the source of lasting unity. No less than the first followers of Christ are we called to witness to the Resurrection by the power of what we say and what we do. One cannot offer that witness without a realization of how much we have received, and without a depth of gratitude that inevitably flows from such an awareness. The font of all generosity is, finally, a grateful heart.

In this season in which we seek a deeper understanding of, and closer friendship with, the Risen Christ, I can think of no better practice than to be mindful of the gifts we have received — life, faith, talent, redemption, forgiveness and many others. Ultimately they are all from God and given to us so that, as good stewards, we might use them to praise God and serve neighbor.

Paul frequently insisted that God was the source of all good gifts and that all gifts were meant for the good of all. It may well be that the glorious moment in the early church of which we hear today was proof that what Paul so faithfully taught was indeed true.

If your sense of gratitude needs stimulus (and don’t we all need that from time to time?) I can think of no better way to find it than a peaceful attentiveness to the post-resurrection accounts of the Risen Christ’s gifts to every one of us.

Peace to all.

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