Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Small Comunity --- Small Church

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' instruction and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." —Acts 2:42
These communities appeal to those who are zealous for evangelization, love the Church, and have "gone through the mill" in church renewal. Although this type of community is not popular in an individualistic, secularized world and church, it is God's will. Therefore, even if it starts small, it will flourish by God's grace.
Life in a small Christian community is simply our baptismal brotherhood and sisterhood lived out practically with a few people. We share God's word, the Eucharist, prayer, our possessions, our gifts, time, and meals. We share daily life.
These are groups of Christians who, at the level of the family or in a similarly restricted setting, come together for prayer, Scripture reading, catechesis, and discussion on human and ecclesial problems with a view to a common commitment. These communities are a sign of vitality within the Church, an instrument of formation and evangelization, and a solid starting point for a new society based on 'civilization of love.
Because the Church is communion, the new 'basic communities', if they truly live in unity with the Church, are a true expression of communion and a means of construction of a more profound communion.
The saying: "There's no place like home," is one of the basic principles of God's word and plan of salvation. In the Old Testament, the home and the Temple were the most important places of worship and celebration. The Passover, the greatest of all Israelite celebrations, was held in homes. Jesus made the home not only a center for worship but also His base for evangelization. He told His apostles: "Look for a worthy person in every town or village you come to and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his home bless it" (Mt 10:11-12). After Pentecost, the early Church met in their homes daily for the breaking of the bread (the Eucharist) and shared meals (Acts 2:46). This resulted in the manifestation of signs and wonders, break-throughs in economic sharing, and wildfire evangelism. "Day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). All the churches for the first 300 years of Church history were homes. Saul persecuted the Church by breaking up these home-meetings, dragging men and women out of house after house, and throwing them into jail (Acts 8:3). Peter was saved from execution through an all-night prayer-vigil at the home of Mary, John Mark's mother (Acts 12:12). Lydia, the first convert of the Western world, made her home a church (Acts 16:15, 40). Priscilla and Aquila had the most famous home-based community in history. They strengthened Paul to return to full-time ministry (Acts 18:2-5), converted Apollos, and empowered him to minister in the Spirit (Acts 18:26). All the churches of the Gentiles owed a debt of gratitude to Priscilla and Aquila and the congregation that met in their house (Rm 16:4-5). Other notable communities were those of Nymphas (Col 4:15), Titus Justus (Acts 18:7), Gaius (Rm 16:23), and Philemon (Phlm 2). The home-based community was seen as a training ground for leadership in the early Church (1 Tm 3: 5, 12).
A Christian community is different from families and groups in at least four ways. First, each committed member of the community must be under Jesus' lordship and open to the Spirit, although others can visit and participate in various aspects of the community.
Second, a small Christian community has ecclesial, Biblical standards for brotherhood and sisterhood as its ideal. It is not only a support group, prayer group, or study group. In a community, we are trying to be one as Jesus and the Father are one (Jn 17:21). We want to love each other to the point that we will lay down our lives for one another (1 Jn 3:16). We hope to so identify with each other that if one suffers we all suffer and if one is honored we all rejoice (1 Cor 12:26).
Third, a small Christian community is similar to an extended family. Twelve adults are usually the maximum number before the community branches off to form a second community. Like Jesus' twelve apostles, this community is small enough to be personal and large enough to have many varied gifts for the up building of all the members. The community often centers around two or more Christian married couples and their families. Sometimes the community can form around a single person, as may have been the case with Lydia and John Mark's mother. The community includes single people, single parents and their children, godparents, relatives, neighbors, or anyone called to share in family life. Not all members must live under one roof, but all the members should be trying to share daily God's word, the Eucharists, prayer, time, possessions, and meals with at least some of the community's members.
Fourth, a home-based community is an "intentional" community. Many families and groups of friends are living a Biblical community life but, because they are not aware of it, they will probably not plan for continuity of leadership and branch off into new communities. Thus, they will not have their full impact on society and probably won't last until Jesus's second coming.

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