24 April 2007 Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Easter Acts 7, 51- 8,1 & John 6, 30-35 Creating a Community
We know the story in the first reading. Stephen was stoned to death. And Saul was consenting to this execution. Later Saul will be converted, and later would be known as Paul, the apostles to the Gentiles. He too, like Stephen, would be a martyr of the faith. Knowing their stories — and the thousand other martyrs of the faith — we asked what made them give up their lives for the faith? What sustained them? It is said that what supported and sustained them in their faith was a community — the early Christian communities were they felt so much loved.
There is a Burt Bacharach song that goes this way:
A chair is still a chair, even when there’s no one sitting there.
But a chair is not a house, and a house is not a home
When there’s no one there to hold you tight
And no one there you can kiss goodnight.
And a house is not a home
When the two of us are far apart
And one of us has a broken heart.
The difference between a group and a community is like the difference between a house and a home. Bernard Lonergan SJ said that a community is born when there is an event of common meaning. For Stephen and Paul, that event of common meaning is the event of Christ — the story of Christ. Everyone agrees with Christ — but may not agree with certain issues (such as circumscision). What binds Christians is the event of Christ. What makes a people who do not know each other be called a community is that each one of them shares a common experience of Christ, shares a common memory of Jesus, shares the story of Jesus.
Thus, how do you know that structure you live in is a house or a home: when people do not find time together, it is a house. If there is welcoming of experiences and stories, then it is a house. On the other hand, when people celebrate together birthdays and anniversaries, and find time to talk at table, then the structure is a home.
We share a common experience. Those born in the Middle Ages, the Rennaissance, or those born in 1944 share the same story of Jesus to our generations today. It is no wonder that when we remember saints and martyrs, we say, “those were our saints and martyrs.” They belong to us. They belong to one community. They belong to our one holy Church.
We create a community by making memories.