Immersed in Christ: April 25, 2020
Feast of St. Mark
Acts 6: 1-7 shows us that, although all in the Church are equally Christ and equal members of his body, there are many different roles and functions in the Church, some of them incompatible with others. One role was that of the “Twelve,” who were those apostles who had been chosen as special witnesses out of the disciples who had been with Jesus “beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us.” They had the function of “overseers,” but they could not be everywhere and oversee everything, 1
So when argument broke out over the distribution of food they “called together the whole community of the disciples” and asked them to “select from among yourselves seven men... whom we may appoint to this task [of serving at tables], while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.” Both functions are “service,” diakonia. One is food service, the other “word service,” but both services are equal, as are the persons chosen for each. They are like the hosts brought up in the Presentation of Gifts: are all distinct, but they are all one bread. All look alike, are treated alike, and all become equally the “Bread of life.” St. Paul is clear about that:
I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think.... For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.
We respect each one’s role — in the Church and in civil society — without seeing anyone as “higher” or “lower” than anyone else: “Pay to all what is due them—taxes... revenue... respect... honor....” But what should dominate and characterize every relationship is love.
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 2
When persecution in Jerusalem caused the Greek-speaking Christians to flee to Samaria while the Twelve remained behind, those chosen for ministry at table took on the ministry of the word. Philip, especially, the first named, is described as preaching, baptizing and “proclaiming the good news to all the towns.” As we saw in yesterday’s Gospel (John 6:9), when there is need, the gifts are present in the community; we just have to use them.
In John 6: 16-21, as soon as the disciples “wanted to take Jesus into the boat” they found they had already arrived where they wanted to go. We may wonder sometimes if we really are the kind of Christians we need to be — or if the Mass has any “meaning” for us. We need to be clear about the significance of desire. If we want to take Jesus into our hearts, want to “get something” out of the Mass, want it to have meaning for us, we are already “there.” This is the value of “affective prayer” in the Presentation of Gifts: just willing and offering to be what Baptism made us, the body of Christ.
Initiative: Be what you are and desire to become all God wants you to be.