The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common.
The apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power, and they were all given great respect.
None of their members was ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from them, to present it to the apostles; it was then distributed to any members who might be in need.
There was a Levite of Cypriot origin called Joseph whom the apostles surnamed Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). He owned a piece of land and he sold it and brought the money, and presented it to the apostles.
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘Do not be surprised when I say:
You must be born from above.
The wind blows wherever it pleases;
you hear its sound,
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.’
‘How can that be possible?’ asked Nicodemus. ‘You, a teacher in Israel, and you do not know these things!’ replied Jesus.
‘I tell you most solemnly,
we speak only about what we know
and witness only to what we have seen
and yet you people reject our evidence.
If you do not believe me when I speak about things in this world,
how are you going to believe me when I speak to you about heavenly things?
No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’
You must be born from above
After the romance of baptism is over, the hard task of living our faith sets in. What does it mean to be ‘born from above’? What does it actually look like in practice? I had the chance to mull over this during Lent, as I stood at the crossroads of important life decisions. Living as one who is ‘born from above’ requires us to break new ground, to find new ways of being. The first step after conversion has to be a prayerful re-examination of our priorities. Where we stand on things like money and time, and how we manage our relationships are a reflection of where we are in our Christian growth. I’ve been a Christian for almost twenty years now, and a Catholic for four. I have to admit I am only now scratching the surface of what it means to let God drive my life decisions.
After their conversion, the apostles set up communities where property rights were shared as a public good. This is a radical idea even by today’s standards yet it worked for the apostles, because “there was no needy person among them”. Those who were able contributed more, like Joseph, who “sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the Apostles” (Acts 4:36-37). It takes men of great faith to make something like that work. It takes men of great strength and humility to walk in the faith and be good stewards of God. Too often we are weak. We are tempted by greed and pride, driven by vanity and the thirst for power. Too often, we give in to our human impulses especially when confronted with so much bounty. In the end, the ones who end up paying for this folly are the parishioners. And faith once betrayed, is never quite the same again.
The kingdom of heaven on earth needs men, ‘born from above’, as Jesus tried to tell Nicodemus. And men born from above are made possible only by the grace of God. This Easter season, bring God in to all your thoughts and plans, let Him drive your decisions. Give Him the chance to show you what He is capable of. Because nothing is impossible for God. You could surprise yourself by what He can achieve in your life if you let Him.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: God, change my heart, change my life as only You know how. Let me not hold You back with my stubbornness, cowardice and inertia.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the spiritual mentors in our lives who encourage us when we grow weary and falter in our faith journeys.