I’ve seen a lot of American Catholic parishes in my life, and not a one looks like the Acts description inn our first reading this Sunday. As it was in the ancient world, so today, especially in these days of corona virus and climate collapse, there is a yearning for this kind of community where there is solidarity and a priority on the common good. Instead, the modern American is challenged to think beyond their narrow individualism and independence. A recent short book by Robert Reich and another on the common good in the prophets by Walter Bruggemann are fine background arguments for the case of the value — the common good. American exceptionalism leads directly to the practice of “every man for himself.” We see where that leads us.

The text makes it sound as if the apostolic community were socialist (indeed they were!), but that word has become anathema to American ears. Perhaps this is the test of corona virus for us, as we are really in this together whether we like it or not.

But how does this sort of community get launched? The Acts text clearly tells us how. Devotion. To the teachings of the Apostles and to one another (the common good), the Eucharist, and the prayers. Devotion has a wide range of meanings, from the religion to the secular. At the root of the word is “vota” Latin for “a vow”. The word denotes the practice of being with someone to serve wholeheartedly and to keep that vow: baptism, Eucharist, marriage, priesthood. The Greek word means endurance and perseverance. The author repeats the word twice in this passage, and twice “the common good”. They are necessarily linked in meaning and practice. devotion is attractive, “enjoying favor with all the people.”

Alan Hartway

Theological Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago IL; Master of Fine Arts, Poetics, at Naropa University, Boulder CO 1996; Master of Arts, Greek Classics, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 2012; Taught at Naropa University from 1999 through 2015; Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2007-2015; Member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province since 1974; Pastor at Guardian Angel Catholic Church, Mead, CO, ministry from 2007-2020 Currently Retired

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