Returning to his usual daily Mass schedule, Pope Francis reflected today that our contemporary faith communities ought to reflect that of the first Christians, who were united in “heart and mind.”
“They had one heart and mind,” the Pope said in his April 29 daily Mass, quoting the day’s first reading, emphasizing that they were a “community in peace.”
Taking his launching point from the day’s passage from the Acts of the Apostles describing how the first Christians lived, the pontiff focused on the entire first week of Easter, during which the Church brings light to our “rebirth from on high.”
Addressing those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, he explained that this rebirth came from the Holy Spirit, who gave the first group of “new Christians” life when “they still didn’t bear that name.”
Highlighting how this very first community of Christians was one of “peace” and “forgiveness” where “Love covered everything,” the Pope expressed that “in this community there was no room for gossip, envy, calumnies, defamation.”
“Peace,” he repeated, observing that in order to “qualify” a Christian community on these characteristics, “we have to ask about the attitude of the Christians.”
“Are they meek, humble? Do they vie for power between each other in that community? Are there envious quarrels? Is there gossip?” the Roman Pontiff asked, emphasizing that these “are not on the path of Jesus Christ.”
“This feature is so important, so important, because the devil always tries to divide us. He is the father of division.”
However, although the first community of Christians existed in such harmony, this does not mean that they did not have problems, the Pope went on to say, recalling “the infighting, the doctrinal struggles, power struggles” that evolved later.
Giving an example, Pope Francis pointed out how the widows complained about there being a lack of assistance, so the apostles “had to create deacons,” but that the “high point” of their beginnings has fixed the essence of all Christian communities as being born of the Holy Spirit.
Naming a second characteristic of a Christian community, the pontiff expressed that in addition to being harmonious, they are also communities full of witnesses to the faith, and invited attendees to reflect on the state of their own groups.
“Does this community give witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Does this parish, this community, this diocese really believe that Jesus Christ is Risen?” he questioned, “Or rather: ‘Yes, He is Risen, but only here,’ because they only believe here, in their hearts far removed from this force.”
It is “by how we bear witness that Jesus is alive, that He is among us” that “we verify the life of a community,” he noted.
Another way we can distinguish a true Christian community is by “the poor,” the Bishop of Rome observed, asking those present first of all “what's your attitude or the attitude of this community toward the poor?” and secondly “is this community poor?”
Is our community “poor in heart, poor in spirit? Or does it place its trust in riches? In power?” the Pope continued, highlighting that Christian communities are measured by “harmony, witness, poverty and care for the poor.”
“This is what Jesus explained to Nicodemus: This comes from above. Because the only one who can do this is the Holy Spirit. This is the work of the Spirit,” he stated, expressing that “The Church is built up by the Spirit” who “creates unity” and “leads us to witness.”
“The Spirit makes us poor, because He is our wealth and leads us to care for the poor.”
Concluding, Pope Francis prayed that the Holy Spirit would help all “to walk on this path reborn through the power of Baptism.”