Article for: Place of Refuge
Published Date: November 14th, 2001 00:22:44
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Genesis Catholic Community Anniversary
This verse comes as a conclusion to the first mass conversion during Pentecost, when the Spirit decended on the apostles.
We notice what even at the birth of the Church, she was already devoted to four things:
- apostles' teaching
- breaking of the bread
A Christian community therefore, should be devoted to these four things. Take away one of these and it will NOT grow or worse, it will bear the wrong fruits.
Apostles' teaching. What is the apostles' teaching? Which of the Christian denominations really preaches the apostles' teachings? Does that mean that when you preach, it has to be scriptural?
As Catholics, we believe that the Apostles' teachings is not only based on scripture, but it is also based on Tradition. Both of them will NEVER have a conflict. Peter's preaching was about Jesus Christ the person rather than scripture. True, he quoted some passages from the Old Testament but if we will note, he was really proclaiming about Jesus.
A community that preaches only doctrine is bound to be too rigid. They will be like the Pharisees who did what was commanded yet lost sight of why things were being done.
A community that preaches from scripture will develop people with good knowledge of scripture but there might be no depth to that knowledge.
But a community that preaches Jesus Christ - crucified and risen, that community will be vibrant and on fire with the Spirit because individuals in the community will be madly in love with Jesus. A person can memorize the entire bible, but without personal experience of Jesus, the knowledge is useless.
Fellowship. Vatican II clearly states that the Church is the people and not the building. The building exists because of the people. This means that there has to be a bond between members of the community - fellowship. Fellowship is more than coming together to eat a meal. It is loving one another - having true concern for each other - sharing, not only in food but in the lives of each other, the joys, fears, sufferings. That is why Paul says that the Church is the body of Christ. When one part hurts, the entire body hurts.
A Church that cares only for a specific group within the community will surely die - because it is not taking care of its own body. And the leaders of that Church will be held responsible for whatever damage they have done to the body of our Lord.
Breaking of the Bread. From day one of the Church, they were breaking the bread or to use a simpler term, celebrating the eucharist.
In verse 46, it says, And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts. The early Christians celebrated the eucharist everyday. When I read this, I felt proud to be a Catholic because as far as I know, Catholics are the only Christians who 'break the bread' every day.
This is why Catholic communities should always be eucharist centered. Leaders, specially, should have a strong devotion to the eucharist because we believe that when we spend time before the bread, we spend time with Jesus.
Prayers. The last 'ingredient' to a Christian community is prayers. A community can be devoted to talking about Jesus and scripture, fellowship, attend mass - but if it is not a praying community, it becomes a social organization. Prayer is what makes community a Christian community. A praying community is not one that prays a specific manner. It is one where all the members have a personal relationship with their Lord - Jesus Christ.
A Christian community that does not lead its members to a deeper prayer life fails its purpose. The reason for community is for the members to support each other so that each of them can know Jesus personally.
Without a personal relationship with Jesus, one cannot call oneself a Christian - because Christianity is not just believing in Jesus - even demons believe in God. Christianity is a commitment to God through the person of Jesus Christ. If a community does not help its members to attain this goal, that community has failed.
I have personally met some of the leaders of the Genesis community in Jakarta, I know some of them as close friends and I thank God for people like them - who are sincere in their desire to serve the Lord. Their devotion to the Lord, in the Word, in the community, in the eucharist and their personal prayer life is undeniable. A tree is known by its fruits - and if the fruits of the community is proof, all I can say is that the Lord has indeed blessed the members of the community with shepherds after his own heart.
They may have their faults but the Lord has also blessed the community with members who accept these faults and love them still. I just stand in awe at the great and marvelous things the Lord has done through you.
1 Chronicles 4:10 tells of a man called Jabez. He prayed this to the Lord and this too is my prayer for the community:
Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that you woulds bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not hurt me!" And God granted what he asked.
May the Lord indeed bless you abundantly and increase your territory, may his hand be on you - to keep you from harm - for the glory of his name through Jesus our Lord, Amen
Terpujilah Tuhan dan Selamat Ulang Tahun!
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