Our ideas of connection and community have been put to the test. Many institutions have been reaching members virtually, as physical contact is limited to slow the spread of Covid-19. Today’s readings reveal how early Christians connected with people in order to spread the faith. They can inspire us to think about how we engage with our sisters and brothers and nurture our faith, even at a distance.
They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life. (Acts 2:42)
How can you use technology to foster connections?
How do you nurture your faith when separated physically from your community?
How can you serve people in need, especially those who are most isolated and vulnerable?
The Gospel describes Jesus’ commissioning of the apostles. After Mary Magdalene, Peter and the beloved disciple leave the empty tomb, Jesus appears to Mary (Jn 20:11-18) and then to the apostles. Today’s Gospel starts with verses we will also hear on Pentecost, at the end of the Easter season. In John’s account, Jesus breathes on his followers and tells them to receive the Holy Spirit, an action that has parallels to God’s creation and animation of the first human being in the garden of Eden (Gn 2:7-8). Jesus animates the church by breathing the power of the Spirit onto the apostles, an act that is interpreted as authorizing them to lead the Christian community.
Not all the apostles were present for this founding moment. Thomas infamously doubts Jesus’ resurrection, requiring physical proof by seeing the stigmata, the marks of the crucifixion on Jesus’ body. When Jesus eventually appears to Thomas, he asserts the importance of belief in the resurrection, blessing those who believe without seeing as Thomas does.
The second reading from 1 Peter builds on this idea by proclaiming the importance of faith, even during difficult times. The reading emphasizes divine protection and calls for joy “while you may have to suffer various trials.” Although it is difficult to rejoice while many suffer physical, mental, social and financial hardships, we should remain faithful and pray for relief. Social distance can be mitigated by spiritual closeness. Prayer connects us as a community of faith during periods of crisis.
In the first reading from Acts, the apostles teach, pray and share fellowship with converts, and they help people in need. As the apostles ministered to new believers, “every day the Lord added to their number.”
Luke’s description of early Christian life in Acts provides the foundation for building a diverse community of faith. By emphasizing prayer and breaking bread in homes, Luke highlights the importance of connecting with people on a personal level to foster meaningful relationships that glorify God. Even as we are physically at a distance, many people can connect virtually for prayer and friendship. But we should also remember those who are unable to connect in this manner. Reach out by phone and letter to people who are most isolated.
Of special importance, the apostles and converts work together, selling possessions and distributing the proceeds to people in need. These gestures of self-sacrifice can inspire us to help those who are most vulnerable in society. Jesus emphasized care for people in need, and it is noteworthy that Luke describes service as one of the first acts that the apostles share with converts. Let us be creative in how we serve God and one another at this time.