Gathered in Community
Acts 2:1—4, 38—47
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And Peter said to them “~Men of Israel], repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him”...
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear caine upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day-by-day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Reflections on the Text
These passages make several important affirmations about the connection between the Christian community and the Holy Spirit.
First, the Holy Spirit enters into the midst of the gathered disciples. People come together for various reasons. Sometimes it is purely for friendship. Often it is to support an idea, a position, or a particular person. Other times, those who might normally never agree on constructive issues are united in their opposition to something or someone. People gather to preserve cultures and traditions, which, in essence, are attempts to preserve parts of themselves.
Christians have to this day gathered for many of the same reasons. Yet, there is another and more essential explanation which distinguishes their gathering from all others: the person of Jesus Christ. “Where two or three are gathered in my name,” he said, “there I am in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). Cultures and ideologies have come and gone over the last two thousand years while these words still resound. They remain as the one immovable stumbling block to those who might want the Church to be like some other gathering or club. These words reveal the Church and local parish as the means by which people become prepared to enter the Kingdom of God — the place where Christ will always be in their midst. It is into the assembly gathered in the name of Christ that the Holy Spirit enters.
The second affirmation is that the Holy Spirit, “filling all things,” is active in the work and formation of that assembly. (See Mt. 28:20; Jn. 20:19—23.)
We sing at the beginning of each session of our Church’s All American Council the words from Palm Sunday: “The Grace of the Holy Spirit has assembled us today.” It is the Holy Spirit who assembles the Christian community. It is the Holy Spirit who makes Christ present to the disciples in the “breaking of the bread” (the Eucharist) and continues to make him known within the community. When we realize that the Church and local parish are assembled by the Spirit, then we can acknowledge that this gathering is not an accident. Priests and lay people have a mutual calling to encourage and commend one another to the Lord. When a community recognizes and seeks the talents of all its members, the parish can truly be strengthened and grow.
Finally, God’s work or plan for salvation described in these texts represents an on going activity. Those “devoted to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers,” who, with joyfulness and generosity, respond to the needs around them do not receive salvation as a completed or packaged gift from God. Rather, they are continually being saved.
Relating the Bible to Our Lives
1. What are some of the organizations you belong to and why do you choose to belong to them? How does your investment of time, energy, and resources compare? To which of them do you give the most of your time, energy, and resources? (Here an examination of your calendar or even your checkbook might be useful.) Where does participation in the Church’s (or local parish’s) life and work fit into your schedule? How is the liturgical calendar of the Church reflected in your daily schedule?
2. “.. . Everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” (Acts 2:39). Often in the Church’s language, one hears about vocation. It might seem to be a word primarily associated with clergy or monastic, but in reality it has to do with being “called” by God. Everyone has a “calling.” Can you identify a way or ways that God has called you?
3. Before the disciples experienced many signs and wonders, they were confronted by a fear “that came upon every soul.” How might one understand this fear and what does it have to do with community life? Read also: Matthew 17:6; Mark 9:6; Luke 9:34; Acts 10:2,34-35; 13:16,26; and I Corinthians 11:27-32.
4. “And the Lord added to their number day by day”: An obvious characteristic of the early Christian community was that it attracted other people. How did it do this? Are those same ways possible and acceptable today? How might you take part in such work?