Memory of the Poor

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Memorial of Saint Maximilian Kobe, a priest martyr for love, who accepted death in the concentration camp of Auschwitz to save the life of another man in 1941.


Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Acts 2,37-48

Hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'What are we to do, brothers?' 'You must repent,' Peter answered, 'and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise that was made is for you and your children, and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God is calling to himself.' He spoke to them for a long time using many other arguments, and he urged them, 'Save yourselves from this perverse generation.' They accepted what he said and were baptised. That very day about three thousand were added to their number. These remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers. And everyone was filled with awe; the apostles worked many signs and miracles. And all who shared the faith owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and distributed the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed. Each day, with one heart, they regularly went to the Temple but met in their houses for the breaking of bread; they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone. Day by day the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The words of the apostle Peter, as penetrating as the tongues of fire that had descended on his head, struck the hearts of those who were listening to him. We read in Acts that “they were cut to the heart.” This should be the goal of every sermon: to reach the hearts of those who listen and cut them, that is, question them, move them, correct them, upset them, and change them. Later, the apostle Paul will say that the Word of God is like double-edged sword that reaches the bottom of the heart. Cut to the heart, those who were listening asked Peter a simple but fundamental question “what should we do?” It is the question that every sermon should inspire. The Gospel should not just amaze – it is not a question of psychology – but it should inspire a historic question in the heart, that is, a question about real change. It should inspire people to ask, “What should we do?” The apostle’s answer was equally clear: “believe in the Gospel and save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” The apostle is not making the usual, tired condemnation of the contemporary world, perhaps tinged with nostalgia for the good old days. Peter instead is proposing the Gospel as the leavening of a new society, as energy that inspires people to think about and live human relationships in a new way. In fact, the Gospel does not claim to be able to outline a perfect social program or construct a predefined Christian society. The Gospel claims to do something on the one hand much simpler, and, on the other, much more profound: the Gospel asks people to change their hearts. Changing the world starts with changing hearts. It starts with men and women whose hearts are no longer stone, no longer trapped in their own selfishness, but full of love. Love, which inspires them to give their lives for others. Those who welcome the Gospel are no longer slaves of loneliness and selfishness, but participants in the victory of love over hatred, of life over death. Luke notes that “those who welcomed [Peter’s] message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added” (v. 41). The Gospel was generating the community. And the features of this new community are clear: listening to the teaching of the apostles, fellowship, the breaking of the bread, prayer, and the sharing of possessions. It is a brief description that should be the model for every Christian community, past and present. Every Christian generation, including our own, is called to compare itself to the model presented in this passage of Acts. And when we speak of re-forming the Church, we mean returning to the “form” of the first Church. This is the prophecy that Acts continues to propose to us, so that we might make it real.