11. YOU ARE THE LIGHT The community’s signal

Created: Wednesday, 26 June 2013 Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The community’s signal

1. The best thing that can happen to anyone searching for the light or searching God is to find a signal or to find a community that is a signal of the Gospel too and meets the prophetic hopes: “signal raised in the middle of the nations” (Is 11, 12). Jesus says to his disciples: “You are the light of the world”, “a lamp is not lit to place it under a bushel, but on the candlestick, so that it gives light to everybody at home” (Mt 5, 14 – 15).
2. Not everything is valid. Amidst the conventional Judaism John’s call comes out: “Deliver fruits of conversion, and do not be saying for yourselves: “We have Abraham as father” (Lk 3, 8). Faith is not received by “biological heritance”. A personal answer in required. Jesus is in this line when he announces the good news of the Gospel: “The kingdom of God is near, let you convert. (1, 15). In a similar way the call of the Gospel bursts into the conventional Christianism. It is not valid to say: “We are all life Catholics”. Another thing is necessary. That conventional Christianism generates a deep dissatisfaction.
3. Among a Christianity that is collapsing and a society that establishes itself aside the faith, it is necessary to go back to the Gospel. Jesus teaches “as that who has authority” (Mk 1, 22), not only with words, but also with works. Jesus announces a word that is accomplished, a word accompanied of signals and signs: he teaches and heals (1, 39), he says and makes. To the question of John the Baptist´ disciples, he answers with the language of the facts: Jesus announces the signals that liberate: “The blind see, the lame walk the leper get clean, the deaf hear, the dead resurrect, good news is announced to the poor” (Mt 11, 5) For those looking for the light or seeking God, perhaps groping (Acts 17, 27), the answer is not in the clouds of theoretical reasoning. The answer is the experience of faith
4. When Jesus evangelizes, he is not alone, he shares his mission. There are the twelve (Mt 10, 1), there are the seventy two (Lk 10, 1), there are the women who accompany Jesus (8, 1 – 3). The community is the new family of the disciples. As Jesus says: “My mother and my brethren are those who listen the word of God and who accomplish it”. (Lk 8, 21), “all of you are brothers” (Mt 23, 8). The foundation of this relationship of fraternity, what really bring together the new family of the disciples, is the word of God.
5. The Gospel is announced like good news.: Blessed, cheerful, happy!, says Jesus. So, up to nine times (Mt 5, 3 – 11). The Gospel accomplishes the law and the prophets (5, 17), it overcomes the justice of scribes and Pharisees (5, 20), it keeps the tension: “You heard that it was said, but I say” (5, 21 – 48). It is not for a few, but for the crowd. It is not for a few who go away from the world, but for many who could transform it. In a special way, it is for the community of the disciples who in the Gospel find their own identity. And it is for the world who, with that salt, needs to be preserved from the corruption and, with that light, needs to be liberated from dark (5, 13 – 16).
6. The Gospel not only assumes the Decalogue, it takes it to plenitude. You not only “shall not have other gods” (Dt 5, 7; 6, 4 – 9), but you overall shall seek  men” the kingdom of God and its justice” (Mt 6, 33). You not only “shall not swear falsely” (Dt 5, 11), but “you shall not swear in any way” (Mt 5, 33 – 34). You not only “shall keep the day of Saturday” (Dt 5, 12 – 15), but you will recognize that “the Saturday is made for men (Mk 2, 27). You shall be fed with the “bread of life” (Jn 6, 35 – 51). You not only shall “honor your father and mother” (Dt 5, 16), but “all those who listen the word of God and accomplish it” shall be your family (Lk 8, 21). You not only “shall not kill” (Dt 5, 17), but “you shall love the enemy” (Mt 5, 43 – 46). You not only “shall not commit adultery (Dt 5, 18; see Si 41, 17; Dt 5, 21, but you “shall be faithful with all your heart” (Mt 5, 27 – 30). You not only “shall not steal” (Dt 5, 19; see 5, 21), but you “shall share your goods” (Lk 19, 8 – 10). You not only “shall not deliver false testimony against your neighbor” (Dt 5, 20; see Pr 12, 22), bur you “shall excuse, forgive” (Mt 18, 21 – 22; see Jn 8, 32). From God´s and neighbor’s love all the law and prophets are hanging (Mt 22, 40)
7. To carry on his mission, Jesus does not identify himself with any of the social and religious groups of his time: Sadducees, zealots, Pharisees, esenians, scribes. Jesus announces the Gospel to the poor, the crowd submitted to the powerful. Jesus´ teaching is not abstract: where there is oppression, there is word of liberation. Like that day, in the synagogue in Nazareth (Lk 4, 18 – 19)

8. Jesus´ mission had began in the periphery of the Jewish world, in Galilee, but his destiny was Judea; and in Judea, Jerusalem; and in Jerusalem, the temple, pupil of the eye of the Jewish world, religious, politic and economic center of power. A compromised and dangerous destiny. It had already been said by Jeremy: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you kill the prophets and you throw stones to those sent to you (Mt 23, 37).

9. Jesus´ way towards Jerusalem ends in the temple. The temple is stained: it should be the prayer’s home for everybody, but it has become a cave of bandits. (Mk 11, 17; see Jr 7, 11). The temple must be purified, even more, the temple must be substituted (Jn 2, 13.22). The new temple will be built in spirit and in truth (Jn 4, 24), with living stones (1 P 2, 5). Jesus is conscious that his time has arrived (Jn 13, 1), The way towards the temple determines the process followed against Jesus: “He is guilty and deserves death” (Mt 26. 59 – 66). Over the cross they placed this poster: “Jesus Nazarene, the king of the Jews” (Jn 19, 19). Jesus died with a strong shout and saying: “Father, in your hand I deposit my spirit” (Lk 23, 46).

10. What happened afterwards is proclaimed by Peter in Pentecost’s day like the center of the Christian message: “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles. But God raised him up, having released him from the pains  of death… we are all witnesses of it. So then, exalted to the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit  from the Father, he has poured out  what you both see and hear… Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt  that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified  both Lord  and Christ.”  (Acts 2, 22 – 24a. 32b – 33. 36). God´s kingdom makes itself present in the person of Jesus.

11. The fact that Jesus is acknowledge like Lord of history means a deep, radical change: “Now when they heard this, they were acutely distressed and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “What should we do, brothers?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ  for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.” With many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!”  (Acts 2, 37 – 40) Leave that justice and that order that have condemned Jesus

12. Forgiveness, amnesty, justification on the part of God is an essential part of the good news of the Gospel: God has nothing against you, God loves you. That who begin to believe and to change, he is already favorably judged by God. In the personal encounter with Christ, dead and resurrected, God´s justice is manifested, not the one that condemns, but in the one that saves (Rm 3, 21 – 22). As Saint John says: “That who  believes will not be judged”  (Jn 3, 18). And Saint Paul: “No condemnation is over those who are in Jesus Christ” (Rm 8, 1)

13. The action of the spirit is a fact that gushes forward from the Pasch of Christ. (Jn 7, 37 – 39). The gift of the spirit is a great promise of Jesus (Jn 14, 16. 26; 16. 7 – 15), even for today’s World: The experience of faith is made possible  in the dynamics of the spirit. The apostles appeal to the experience of the Spirit as a fact to which anyone can attend: “what you see and hear”. The cause of Jesus is being claimed by God and, in which way! If the message seems incredible, it is announced among a challenge: “all of as are witnesses” (2, 32) and, besides, anyone can be.

14. The first Christian community is a place of teaching, communion, celebration and prayer: “They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, 1  to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2, 42). In the community signals appear (2, 45), that confirm the announced word (Mk 16, 20). The communion of hearts translates into goods effective communication: “All the believers lived united and have everything in common” (Acts 2, 44), “nobody called theirs to his goods” (4, 32). The welcome is a dimension of the community that is open to new members incorporation: “The Lord added every day to the community those who were to be saved” (2, 47).

15. How are the first communities organized? They are associations to listen the Word. They have a council, the group of the twelve, that is completed after de death of Judas (Acts 1, 21 – 26). They listen the word about it (1, 16 – 20). Like in Jesus life, they have an objective: to make disciples (Mt 28, 19), and a program: the Gospel (5, 17). Many go away (Jn , 66); there are few those who go in through the narrow door (Mt 7, 13 – 14). The group of aramean language, that integrates ardent observers of the law, grows a lot, (Acts 21, 20). They meet with an object (Acts 2, 1): to complete the group of the twelve (1, 15 – 16), to select the seven of the group of the greek language (6, 2 – 5); to treat the business of the gentiles (15, 6). They have admission, operation, exclusion of the community (Acts 2, 38; Mt 4, 17; 7, 1 <5; 18, 1 – 35). The adopt decisions “the apostles and the ancients”, “in common agreement”, “the holy spirit and we” (Acts15, 22. 25. 28). Peter presides (Mt 16, 18), but he must justify his action in Cornelius´ home. Peter is “apostle of the Jews”, Paul is “apostle of the gentiles” (Ga 2, 8). His daily responsibility is “to worry for all churches” (2 Co 11, 28). He has collaborators who he selects carefully, like Prysca and Aquila (Rm 16, 1), Timothy (16, 21) or Titus (Tt 1, 9). The communities are managed by “ancients” (20, 17; 21, 18. 20), also called “watchmen” (20, 28), “watchmen and servers” (Phil 1, 1; Mk 9, 35); Febe is “server” (Rm 16, 1). When needed, Paul appeals to the rights of roman citizen (Acts 22, 25 – 29)

16. In the middle of the 2nd century, the author of the Letter to Diogneto writes: "Christians are not different from other men, neither by country of origin, language or customs... They live in their own homelands, but as strangers; they participate in all things as citizens and they suffer everything as foreigners; all strange land is homeland to them, and all homeland is strange land. They get married as everybody else; and as everybody else they have children, but they do not expose them. They set a common dinner table but not a bed. They are in the flesh but they do not live according to the flesh. They pass their time on earth but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the established laws, but with their lives they are above the laws” (V, 1-10).

17. The first communities find themselves in an adverse political and religious situation. To the newly born Church the Jews call “sect” (Acts 24, 5. 14). Saint Paul says, "We are afflicted in every way but not constrained" (2 Co 4, 8-9). In the Letter to Diogneto it is written also about those Christians: "They love everybody and they are persecuted by everybody. They are unknown and they are condemned. They are poor but they enrich many. They have nothing and they have an abundance of everything. They are dishonoured, and in the same dishonours they are glorified. They are cursed and they are declared just. They are criticized and they praise. They are slandered and they carry themselves with honour. They do well and they are punished as dishonest; punished to death, and they are delighted, as if they were given life. By the Jews, they are fought as foreigners; by the Greeks they are persecuted, and nevertheless the same ones that hate them cannot give a reason for their hate” (V, 11-17).

18. The community is the most sensitive way that we have to listen to the Word of God, to recognize Christ’s presence, to perceive the action of the Spirit. It is the pool of Siloam, where the man born blind is cured from his original blindness (Jn 9, 7). It is the place where Paul, blinded by the light of the Lord on his way to Damascus, regains sight and strength (Acts 9, 3-19). It is the womb where the new man is conceived "through the living and abiding Word of God" (1Pe 1, 23). It is the body of Christ (1 Co 12, 27), boosted by the spirit of God (12, 13).

19. Being a community, the Church is light of the people (LG 1), a sign raised amidst nations (SC2), universal sacrament of salvation (GS 45). It is not the individual but the community which can preach the gospel. It is not the individual person, but the community which deeply renews the Church. It is not an individual person, but the community which can give an effective answer to present society, such as it is configured now. It’s not a person, but the community that can live today the signals of the Gospel.

*Dialogue: The community, signal of the Gospel amidst the Church and the society. Is it an utopia? , is it possible?, is it necessary?, is that signal noticed?, how?
The first Christian community, model of ecclesial renovation. Which are the most important features?, are reflected in them our communitarian experience?, what difficulties do we find?, what experience do we have?