April 17, 2012 - Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

Today's Readings

People love utopias. They have a philosophical attraction for us. So many people in human history have thought that they had the idea that would change everything. They have a poetical attraction for us. Places like Camelot, Atlantis, and Shangri-La evoke powerful feelings just by their names.

The vision we have today of the apostolic community of Jerusalem is a utopia. All of the rich give everything they have to take care of the poor. It does not seem that this community lasted very long. Its very existence suggests that the Christians during the first years after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven expected him to return very shortly. This is a very reasonable belief. He rose 3 days after his death. He ascended into heaven 40 days after his resurrection. He said that he would return, so it was only reasonable of those early Christians to believe that he would return shortly. So all of the rich sell their property which they believe they will have no use for anymore.

From our perspective 2000 years later it is somewhat easier to understand that Jesus might come tomorrow, he might come today, and he might come in 10,000 years. We live somewhat more practically. The utopian ideal is only realized in religious communities among those who choose to live poverty. The rest of the Christian world has to deal with money and economy to some extent. Nevertheless, this Christian ideal is not something we should forget or treat as a mistake of the early Church. As Luke puts it, who wrote this decades after the end of that community, “Great grace was on them all.”

It would not be possible nor is it even desirable to return to a time when all Christians lived together and shared their wealth, but that early community provided formation for the newborn Church. The Apostles would go on to travel the world converting communities everywhere and people like Barnabas would accomplish great things after leaving the Jerusalem community. We should not forget that community even though it ended long before we were born. It is still where we came from and it is the one place on Earth, the one moment in history when life was as like it will be on the new Earth that we are waiting for as it will ever be until Jesus comes again.