The Apostles’ wisdom for combating modern American hustle culture
A Reflection for Saturday of the Second Week of Easter
They said: “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.” (Acts 6:2)
Today’s first reading from Acts has some wisdom for those of us in the hustle-and-bustle, frenetic-pace, modern American context.
In the passage, the disciples are grappling with a question of how to ensure that a particular group of Christians are not neglected in the daily distribution of resources among the community. When these Christians complain, the disciples respond: “‘It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table’” (Acts 6:2). They then appoint seven others to ensure everyone is included in the distribution. Meanwhile, the Apostles continue to devote themselves to prayer and the Word of God.
It’s hard to imagine a response that is more antithetical to our culture’s way of handling problems, where we are adept at constantly applying band-aid solutions to only the most urgent concerns of the day.
When we lose the Word as our centering point, we fall quickly into cynicism, despair and burnout as the weight of the world’s problems seems insurmountable.
Instead, the Apostles teach us a different truth: that the Word of God is the most profound solution we have at our disposal. Can we accept this? What would this way of living and thinking look like? It requires a reorientation of our lives around the Word of God as the impetus for our actions. This Word is not a moral code against which to cross-reference our latest behaviors, but rather a seed inside of us, a spark of Christ’s own life, that grows outward to embrace the rest of our lives.
And notice that the Apostles do solve the problem with the help of the community. Devotion to the Word, far from being an academic or intellectual pursuit, always leads to action in pursuit of justice. When we put the Word of God at the center of our lives and our communities, we orient our actions around a proper axis, that of Jesus and his good news.
This wisdom has been passed down through the church for many generations, and is one of the reasons that I find Catholic Social Teaching so compelling. It looks at the problems of society through the lens of the Gospel, which means it is an inherently hopeful and other-oriented way of approaching the world’s problems. And today, we think especially of the way in which Pope Francis has interpreted our climate challenges through the lens of the Gospel in his encyclical Laudato Si’. As Christians we are invited into this fundamentally hopeful understanding of reality.
When we lose the Word as our centering point, we fall quickly into cynicism, despair and burnout as the weight of the world’s problems seems insurmountable. But keeping the Word of God as our foundation, we know that the Lord will guide us to act with love in the service of those who are neglected and abandoned, and we trust that we can take the next step forward with hope.