I love the beauty of photos, whether of the gifts of nature or the power of the human dynamic. Our neighboring parish at Saint Agnes has a secretary, Dotti, who is a great photographer. When she posts her pictures on facebook, I marvel at what she has captured. I also love the beauty of the icon, the sacred image painted in a stylized way that conveys the sacred. With many byzantine friends, I appreciate this gift to their art to the Church. We have a beautiful icon of Saint Francis of Assisi given to our church by a parishioner in our Francis Room at church, and I have an icon of Saints Cyril & Methodius that graces my living room.
Photos are images of what is, as seen by the naked eye. They can tell you of the beauty that is visible. An icon is an image of what is, as seen with the eye of God and the vision of Faith. It can tell you of what should be, what can be, what must be for people of Faith.
I mention this today because in our reading at Mass from the Acts of the Apostles we are given a picture of the early Church. It is primarily an iconic view of what God was accomplishing in the lives of the believers. And for us today it is an iconic view of what we should be about. Oh, if only!
Two things stood out to me. First, "...the community of believers were of one heart and one mind...". There was a unity of purpose, a trust in the presence and power of Christ in their midst, a trust in each other (in the community, in the Church) and a true sense of joy and peace that permeated all that they did. Looking around today I am discouraged by the division, the bickering, the negativity that exists on so many levels. We undermine instead of build up, we whine instead of praise and support, we allow narrowness to limit out expansive joy from radiating from our lives of Faith. Why is this? Because we love darkness instead of light, we accept mediocrity rather than true holiness and because we allow the evil one to bring us down.
The second thing that stood out to me this morning was the line "There was no needy person among them ...". The community worked in unity and trust and untiringly to make sure that this was the reality. Our communities are much larger, and maybe the needs greater, but Oh, if only! Our outreach to the poor and needy is all too often couched in programs or agencies. Those who do respond, sharing their wealth, their blessing, their talent and time, but most especially their love and concern in the name of Christ, find great blessing. They are Church. This too demands trust, but it mostly demands a loving heart and a generous spirit.
The icon of Church given us in Acts is a powerful vision of what we must work to become. The reason is simple: that Jesus Christ be praised and the joy of his Resurrection inspire hope and bring love into a needy world. May our purpose in life be to strive that "There be no needy person among us" - needy in terms of belonging or needy in terms of want.