Monday, November 26, 2012

Catholic Bible E-Study – Acts 4: 23 – 37

by M. J. Joachim


In the first half of Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested and ordered not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. Eventually, they were also released, because they could not be punished, particularly since the people were supportive of their actions in healing the crippled beggar.

The second half of Acts 4 relates to prophecy and how leaders, hungry for power, fortune and fame, are dismissing its message and God’s word. It goes on to discuss how the beginnings of Christian communities began forming, because the people were bearing witness to the resurrection of Christ.

My initial reflections about Acts 4: 23 – 37 relate to charity. “There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property and 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 their need.” (Acts 4: 34 – 35)

I can’t help but think that charity is reciprocal, and requires teamwork to function properly. Matthew 26: 11 states, “The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me.” My mind wanders to 1 Corinthians 12: 12, “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body though many, are one body, so also Christ.”

Acts 4: 32 states, “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.”

True charity opposes selfishness on many levels. It rebukes pride and vice, one-upping those we deem lower than ourselves. Being poor is as much a state of mind, as it is lack of material possessions. Jesus was born in a stable, and He is the Savior of the world!

Following Scripture (Acts 4: 23 – 37) today requires some intense consideration. We too need to learn from the prophets of old, and recognize truth that cannot be denied, or justified when and if it is.

This passage calls us to a higher awareness of our surroundings, a closer look at our hearts and mindful recollection of our motives. It also poignantly reminds us that we are all responsible for building up the community; charity is not a handout, but a loving response to those who are truly in need of whatever it is we have to offer.

Remember Acts 3, where the crippled beggar asked Peter and John for alms. They didn’t have money to give, but that didn’t stop them from giving – and what a gift they gave! The beggar in turn gave witness to Christ. This is true charity and community at work, “of one heart and mind.” 

Acts 4:  23 – 37 

(as written in The New American Catholic Bible)

Prayer of the Community

After their release they went back to their own people and reported what the chief priests and elders had told them. And when they heard it, they raised their voices to God with one accord and said,

 “Sovereign Lord, maker of heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them, you said by the holy Spirit through the mouth of our father David, your servant:

‘Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples entertain folly?
The kings of the earth took their stand
And the princes gathered together
Against the Lord and against his anointed.’
Indeed they gathered in this city against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, Herod and Pontius Pilate, together with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do what your hand and [your] will had long ago planned to take place. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness, as you stretch forth [your] hand to heal, and signs and wonders are done through the name of your holy servant Jesus. As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Life in the Christian Community

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. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. 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.
Thus Joseph, also named by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated “son of encouragement”), a Levite, a Cypriot by birth, sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the apostles.

Just the Facts and Soul Searching

1.  Where did the apostles go upon their release, and what did they do?
2.  Relying on information from the previous question, how does your answer relate to your own communications within your family and personal relationships, when you respond or deal with the outside world?
3.  Who were the kings and princes that took their stand against Jesus? How did they do it?
4.  Are there leaders today, who also take a stand against Jesus? What actions of theirs make you believe this is true? How do their actions affect you and your beliefs and decisions on a personal level?
5.  What made the community of believers such a cohesive group?
6.  How is your family and home a cohesive community? What are the best things about it? Where and how can you make it a more charitable dwelling?

Active Response

Take some time to exercise the gift of charity in your own home this week. Think about the little things, like surprising someone by helping them unexpectedly, or leaving a special note in an unexpected place. Make a point to greet your family members warmly, each time you see them, and say “I love you,” each time you must separate from one another. Be mindful of what your family members need. It may be as simple as giving the gift of silence, when they are working or playing on the computer. It might involve getting them off the computer, for some much needed quality time together. Whatever it is, be certain that your charity is all about them, and not about you at all.

The Final Word

There are many times when our needs are not the same as our wants. Society seems to give an unspoken message (or perhaps not so unspoken) that we are entitled to certain things. Indeed, humanity has basic needs that must be met. However, this is not an endless supply of anything that might be available, if we whine, beg, steal or throw tantrums demanding that we get it.
Society appears to be playing a game of tug-o’-war, in my opinion. Whoever screams the loudest gets the most attention, while the rest of the people fight to keep what they already have, and many juggle to adjust to the changing demands on their paychecks. We wouldn’t let a child disrupt our home like this, yet we fight to protect the rights of others doing this exact thing in our midst.
We need to take some time to discern the wants from the needs. We need to decide if we are not adding to the problem, by enabling those “throwing tantrums to get what they want,” or reaching out to truly help those in need. This is not an easy task.
Individuals must step up and boldly take a stand against greed and selfish agendas, two things I believe are running rampant in society these days. Depleting resources by supplying wants (as opposed to real and actual needs) is not a good solution. In doing so, we literally limit those resources, which diminishes the ability we have, to help more people who really need them.
It is our duty to pay attention to what is going on, and respond in all fairness to the needs of the poor. How can we possibly do this, if we spend so much time addressing those who merely want things, and will go to just about any lengths to get them?
My heart is heavy when I think about the sins against humanity, in the name of helping others. If we put Christ first, instead of ourselves, perhaps we’ll be able to see the errors of our ways.
That’s all for now, kind followers. See you next post with the answers to the questions, plus prayers for the unborn – people truly in need, being sacrificed for the wants of greed and selfishness, all in the name of protecting rights and freedoms, so some people can get what they want…such a sad, sad commentary indeed.
M. J.
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