In his reflection on today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles Fr. Roger Karban talks about a principle that is used by many of our sacred authors of scripture. The principle is called Uhrzeit als Endzeit. The German phrase can be translated as “the beginning is actually the end.” The technique is used when one is trying to direct his or her readers’ eyes to a future goal that the author is deeply committed to instilling in the minds of readers. But instead of just stating, “This is what I expect you one day to become,” the writer paints a picture of an ideal past in which those longed-for qualities were already present and practiced. The hope is, “If we did it back then, why can’t we do it again now?”
Today’s first summary reading provides us with a classic example of Uhrzeit als Endzeit. “They [the early Jerusalem Christians] devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers…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.” They were the ideal other Christs the risen Jesus intended them to be.
There is just one problem. This isn’t the only picture of the first Christians that our sacred authors have passed down to us. Even in the Acts of the Apostles there is a movement from one story where everything is great to a story of where there is conflict in the community.
Fr. Karban says that most Lucan scholars would say that the reason the evangelist included summaries of an ideal life in the early Christian community was because Christians in the mid-80s were having a problem recognizing the body of Christ among them. Luke’s description in the Acts of the Apostles of the church “in the beginning” was actually the church he was trying to help create “at the end.”
Fr. Karban suggests that we have never, ever had an ideal Christian community anywhere or anytime in the church’s 2000 year history. Divisions in the community that are addressed elsewhere in the Acts of the Apostles and other places (like 1 Corinthians 11:18-21) were, and still are, the norm for all who have committed themselves to imitating Jesus’ death and resurrection. We’ve been working at becoming the body of Christ for a long time. (Excerpts taken from Celebration)
Pope Francis continues to challenge us today to be the body of Christ for others. He reminds us that there is joy when we manage to live the ideal given to us in today’s passage from the Acts of the Apostles. As Fr. Karban suggests, we may not reach the ideal, but we can keep making the effort.
Thanks again to everyone who helped to make Lent, Holy Week, and Easter celebrations so beautiful. People came together in many ways: decorators, musicians and singers, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, servers, deacons, mass coordinators, ushers, those who were baptized, confirmed and received the Eucharist for the first time, and all of you who gathered to celebrate these great mysteries of our faith. It brought me joy and I hope it did for you too.