Read Acts 6:1–7
A community is never perfect. After Ananias and Sapphira’s lie (see previous article), there appears an injustice: the Apostles seem to favor the widows from their own country and neglect the others. This ethno-cultural discrimination gives rise to conflict.
If the external persecutions make the Church grow, this inner crisis runs the risk of breaking her up. Difficulties and mistakes will always be there. The normal procedure is to ignore them and act in order to choke the dissenting voices: “Cut down, hush!.” But the remedy is worse than the disease: it kills brotherhood and the prophetic word which would like to build it anew. To deny the sickness provokes mortal cancer!
The Apostles give us a good example: they recognize their sin of omission. Only in this way can they come to understand their identity. Not everything depends on them. Let the community choose those who are going to serve at the widows’ table whereas they themselves will dedicate themselves to prayer and the service of the Word. This is the Apostles’ task and their successors’! It is in this way that they should build up the Church. Without this basis, she collapses and falls into ruin.
It is the Year of Faith. The danger of all Jubilee Years is to celebrate beautiful liturgies if only the necessary changes are not faced (Cf. Isaiah 1:10–17). In the present account of the Acts, we are told what the faith, the Apostles have to pass on to every person, consists of. Faith doesn’t consist of our own ideas or knowing the catechism by heart: “Even the demons believe, but they shake with fear” (James 1:19). Faith becomes steadfast in prayer and in the ministry of the Word. These are the two means by which the twelve patriarchs of the Church “lay the foundation” of their community of new people. The genetic patrimony they are offering us are prayer and the Word. The former puts us in communion with the Father and the latter, with all the brethren to whom we are indebted of the Gospel (Cf. Romans 1:14ff). Other types of service, although useful or even necessary, belong to other people.
There are different gifts. Everyone is responsible for putting what is his own at the disposal of the others. Our limitations are the need we have of the others: they create communion in diversity. And this is our likeness with God, Trini-Unity of Love. Prayer and ministry of the Word are the essence of the Christian faith. This binomial is fruitful. It generates every gift and is like the flesh of the service to the poor. Otherwise, our faith is empty (Cf. James 2:26; Matthew 25:40). Let us not love in word or speech but in deeds and in truth (1 John 3:18).
This year is also marked by the “celebration” of the 17th centenary of Constantine’s Edict, the Edict of Milan, 313 AD, which gave freedom to Christianity. Religious freedom is something good. It must be respected, especially that of the others. All religions demand it but very few of them grant it. Perhaps none. Nobody can take our Christian freedom away from us, not even persecution. Only our betrayal of the Gospel will take it away, whenever we prop up the powerful. Christianity, when it becomes a “state religion,” usually imposes the Gospel by means of laws and, eventually stakes, crusaders, dictatorships and various tricks in order to obtain exemptions and privileges. What an abomination! From subjects of persecution, we become persecutors! In order to defend undue privileges, we become unable to recognize the Lord of the poor.
I hope that the year 2013 is celebrated “with shame and blushing” because of the freedom we expect for ourselves and deny to others. Only one is the origin of the five wounds of the Church: forgetting the Word which announces a Crucified God. The Church must, again and again, cleanse its bridal face if it wants to be like her Bridegroom. It is a face which has grown very dim: at practical level, because of undue claims of domination and, at a deeper level, because of forgetting the Gospel.
In the place of the Gospel, we find so many doctrinal and normative documents. Of them, the great Thomas Aquinas could say again and again: Palea, palea! (Straw, straw), good only for burning. For evangelization, we do not need new texts or new languages. From of old, the Gospel is written on paper with ink. It now awaits to be written by the Spirit in my flesh, the only language that can be understood by all. Other words are only traps to ensnare proselytes.