Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Homily 11

Acts 4:23-36

And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.

So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said:

"Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them,

"who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:

'Why did the nations rage,
And the people plot vain things?
The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.'

"For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together

"to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.

"Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,

"by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus."

And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.

And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.

Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,

and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.


I'm interested that again the emphasis is on giving "witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus."

And I'm intrigued to see how this early communitarianism will develop as the Church spreads. So far it seems to be contained largely in Jerusalem, in a single community. How will things change as Christianity expands?


Chrysostom's short homily on this passage begins by emphasizing the response of the Church to Peter's and John's encounter with Temple authorities-- they do no pray that their persecutors be crushed, but rather that they themselves will have boldness to speak in the face of opposition (71). And they do not ask to be delivered out of danger, but rather again to have "boldness to speak Thy word." (72)

Chrysostom remarks on the generous communitarianism of the early Church-- people gave all, but did not give it "as their own." (73) Were this kindness to be practiced here in Constantinople, he reckons that there would be abundance for all the poor in the city:

But, you will ask, what should we do after the money was spent? And do you think it could ever be spent? Would not the grace of God be ten thousand fold greater? Would not the grace of God be indeed richly poured out? Nay, should we not make it a heaven upon earth? (74)

He then returns to his comments about swearing, warning of banishment from the cathedral anyone who does not refrain from taking oaths. To refrain from swearing, he reminds, is a great weapon against the devil:

A mouth that cannot swear will soon both engage God in prayers, and smite the devil a deadly blow. A mouth that cannot swear will be incapable of using insulting language. (75)

Should his hearers fix this habit deep, he says, he will begin instructing them in greater things.