“ …. God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” (33-34)
Born of expatriate Indian parents, many of my childhood vacations included a month long family pilgrimage to Kerala. While most of my experiences were delightful, some were decidedly not.
Two not so delightful experiences readily come to mind. The first was stepping out of the air conditioned aircraft cabin and being smothered by the muggy air of the tropics. The second was stepping out of the airport and being swarmed by an army of panhandlers. To a young mind, unfamiliar with poverty, this was always a disturbing and confusing sight.
However, a strange thing would happen over the course of my stay. Acclimatization would set in and soon the humidity seemed much less oppressive than it felt at first. A similar mental transformation would also follow. The panhandlers remained as numerous as ever, but the gnawing pain in my mind that was prompted by their plight would be replaced by an uncomfortable numbness. Unfortunately, this is the state of mind many of us Christians have today. Indeed, the numbness isn’t uncomfortable anymore - in fact, the numbness has become comfortable. The stories and statistics of mostly preventable human suffering abound, and it is far too tempting to fall into an easy indifference. Is this the right Christian attitude? What do we know of the attitude of the early Christians towards the needy?
When we meditate on the passage in Acts 4:32-37 what we find is an early Church that was deeply invested in the well being of the less privileged members of their community. They took Jesus’ admonition to the rich young man to heart. They divested themselves of their material possessions, distributed them to the needy members and then followed Jesus. And before we brush off this generosity as an affirmation of kinship among the provincial few, we should remember that at this time, the church numbered five thousand men and perhaps as many women and children. Soon they would grow to include Greek speaking Jews and later on, the Gentiles.
The early Church set the bar very high indeed! This should serve as a loud wake up call to those of us who are complacent in our good deeds. And yet, how was all this possible for the early church and as importantly, how does this affect us? Acts 4:33-34 tells us that “ …. God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” None of these awesome works would have been possible without the grace of God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When we put ourselves in God’s hands and rely on His grace, each one of us can be counted among those that “are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory”. In this way, God accomplishes His will through us, in spite of our own frailties.
Prayer: Lord, help us to be never indifferent to the suffering of our fellow brothers and sisters. Provide us your grace, through which we may serve our community, in total submission to your will. Amen.
Thought for the day: God’s grace is sufficient for the needs of the world; we must submit ourselves to be the instruments of that grace.
Vinod Johnson, Carmel MTC, Boston