“And they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers… with joy.” (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37)
Homo homini lupus! It is easier to see a wolf eat with a lamb than a human being not to eat another human being! And yet the description of the first Christian community did inspire people’s best dreams. Freedom, equality and brotherhood entered our culture, thanks to these texts, long before the French Revolution. A good and beautiful lifestyle is not utopia, but reality that saves us from death. To eat with the other person instead of eating the other person is the only possibility of life.
This community is not a reality born at a writing table. It takes place “by chance” as any other of God’s works: it originates in the Cenacle out of fear, on Holy Friday; it widens up to 120 people after the Resurrection; after Pentecost, since it appears to work, it articulates itself along the same lines with 4,000 people, waiting to spread to the ends of the earth. There was the Qumran model. But the root is more ancient: Israel is a people made up of brethren who live in the same land, the Father’s legacy. From this come the Jubilee Year’s dispositions (Cf. Leviticus 25). The basic biblical theme is to rebuild fraternity: Human beings recognize God as their Father and become His children. This is God’s project. Adam broke it by “killing” the Father, and Cain killing his brother. Cain, in the same way as Romulus who killed Remus (a Rome’s foundation myth – Ed.), founds the first city (Genesis 4:17). Every society stands on the law of the strongest: the one who can kill prevails over the others; in this way keeping in check the violence of the many (Read Judges 9:1-21). At Jerusalem, being together, because of death, comes to an end and being together for life begins. Perseverance that resists to difficulties and the usury of time, keeps up this new life. Behold its four pillars:
1. Listening to the Apostles’ teaching. Jesus did not teach us a doctrine: He used to say what He was going to do. The Gospels tell us what He did, together with brief words, that declare the sense of it. Even His few sermons are autobiographical. The Apostles’ teaching is just to tell about Jesus. He is the Son who, knowing the Father’s love, in His turn, loves the brethren, starting from those who are left out. Let us listen to what “He began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1) in order to keep doing as He did. As a matter of fact, we become the word we listen to. Jesus, the Word who became flesh; the Father’s Son, because a brother to all, is the new law (Torah), the law of freedom. Listening to this Word establishes and builds, constantly forms and reforms the Church, so that it may bear witness to the Son.
2. The communion of goods. The Word creates spiritual and material communion. The communion of spirit without that of goods is a lie. The communion of goods without the spiritual is violence. Greed is idolatry, the root of all evils (Ephesians 5:5; 1 Timothy 6:10). It separates us from the Father and the brethren. If division is death, communion is life. Brotherhood is necessary for life, it is the new justice (Zedaqà), God’s very life: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren,” not in words but by the truth of our deeds (1 John 3:14,19). Today, the minimum of solidarity requested from the wealthy would be to pay their taxes!
3. Breaking the bread. The Eucharist, the memorial of the Lord’s love, is communion with the Father and the brethren, lived out in our everyday life. Like Jesus, we “take everything” as gift, “blessing” the One who gives everything and gives Himself as well. Since we are loved, we, on our turn, love like the Father, “breaking and giving out” to others. By means of the Eucharist, we, together with the whole of Creation, enter into God’s life, mutual love between the Father and the Son, Life of all that exist. “This is the new worship in Spirit and in truth (Abodàh).” In continuity with Israel, the first community prays also in the temple.
4. Joy. It is the fruit of requited love, God’s very emblem. It takes the place of “fasting” because “the Bridegroom is with them.”