You may notice that Acts of the Apostles is the source of the first reading during the Easter season. This book describes how Christianity grew from a handful of disciples to a major religion. Today’s reading about an ideal Christian community is meant to show ordinary believers how to be extraordinary, using three examples I call power, property, and prayer.
Power means the “signs and wonders” (Acts 2:43) performed by the disciples through the power of the Holy Spirit. This should be named last, because it takes a lot of faith to heal the sick. “Of course, we can visit the sick and comfort the dying. Just leave it up to God to cure anyone,” you might say. If you had the same faith as the apostles, you just might be able to cure the sick. Or you might study to become a doctor and cure them with medical skills. As long as you acknowledge that God gave you the brains and the talent to become a doctor, you are doing God’s work.
By property, I mean sharing what you have with those in need. Many disciples were moved to sell their goods and share them with the poor, and word of that must have spread. If you are not called to sell all your goods and become a monk or a nun, you can still tithe to your church or the poor. You can donate time as well, perhaps tutoring disadvantaged kids, helping build or repair houses in poor areas, or bringing meals to shut-ins. The point is that followers of Christ are not just individual do-gooders. They are a community of believers who care about each other and also care about the non-believers who need help of any kind.
So where did these first disciples get the faith to cure the sick and the love to help the needy? The answer is the third example – prayer. Twice in the first reading we hear how “they devoted themselves . . . to the breaking of the bread” (Acts 2:42, 46). Breaking bread was their name for the Eucharist. They also went to the temple to pray, because at that time most disciples were Jewish Christians. As they heard the Hebrew scriptures, they saw how God’s promises were fulfilled in Christ. Later, they added reading from the letters of Paul and preaching about Jesus’ works and teachings. All of these practices helped unite them to Christ and to each other.