Tag Archives: belief

A Community of Believers

Today’s reading:

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. […] There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. (Acts 4:32, 34, 35)

Conservatives descry “redistribution of wealth,” but on the surface, this certainly appears to be an apt description what’s going on here. Many commentators have noted the sharing involved in the early church, and this sounds positively communistic.

What’s the difference? On the face of it, the voluntary nature is the most obvious. There’s no indication that anyone commanded these believers to surrender their relative wealth. Further, there’s no indication that the Apostles used guilt as a motivator. This is in clear contrast with what many televangelists have done throughout the years.

The Gospel

Knowing and knowledge appear twice in the same week. Perhaps that’s intentional?

The Gospel reading for today was the story of Nicodemus. In the midst of this story I’d heard so many times growing up, something new: “[W]e speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony.” It’s interesting that Jesus presents a dichotomy: “what we know” is not necessarily “what we have seen.” Reliance only on the latter to inform the former is the materialism I’ve embraced for so many years. They’re not necessarily the same, and to insist that they are identical is limiting.

It all calls to mind, once again, the division William James makes about those who seek truth versus those who avoid error. In being a strict materialist, I felt I was avoiding all error because I was relying on my senses or others’ senses. Yet in relying on others, I’m essentially relying on their testimony. Granted, with many matters (particularly science), I can verify what others testify by observing things in question for myself. But in reality that only represents a small fraction of knowledge available.

This is essentially what I’m wrestling with: can I trust the testimony of the authors of scripture? I don’t yet have an answer for that

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Accidental Christmas Present

We were leaving the church after a Christmas Mass in Polish when we noticed a group of men standing around the priest’s new Volvo. Apparently, someone had hit his car and driven off without anything. I saw a little scratch, but I couldn’t discern any significant damage.

The priest was angry.

He called the parish pastor to let him know it had happened, and he requested that the local priest announce it in Mass, asking for information.

“I guess this is my Christmas present,” said the Polish priest sarcastically.

Perhaps it was.

It seems to me that the material should not be terribly important to a priest. It seems to me he should have been more concerned with the individual who hit his car: what would cause someone to do this? Is this a lack of conscience or a fear of facing consequences? It would have been heartening to hear the priest say something like this.

So maybe it was a Christmas gift. Maybe it was an opportunity to show instead of tell the parishioners that the spiritual is more important and things like cars and iPods are of little value. Perhaps it was a chance to preach with actions rather than words, to show forgiveness and express concern about the mental state — the soul — of the individual who committed the act. Possibly it was an occasion to show selflessness, to show concern for others before showing concern for one’s own silly objects.

The homily had been about having Christ in one’s heart and how God doesn’t force himself on anyone — a fairly common sentiment among Catholics and Protestants alike. I suppose the gift of salvation isn’t the only gift God doesn’t force humans to accept.

Photo: “Ouch” by rossneugeboren at Flickr (obviously not a photo of the car under discussion)

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