Power of together.

God said, “let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.”

The early Church understood the power of community. The Book of Acts tells us, right from the get-go, after Jesus’ Ascension: All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer. In other words, they were together, of one heart and mind, one in prayer, one in love and support for each other. Even in the face of all they feared, they were together as One in the Lord! 

Pentecost came and thereafter the community grew. People were added, not at distance, but in community. Led by the Holy Spirit, a pattern of life developed: They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life… All who believed were together and had all things in common; Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

We may find it hard to fathom, but they could not get together by phone, Skype, Zoom, or Facebook. They could not support each other by sending a check. In fact, to learn from the Apostles, to pray, and to do what Church does, required them to be together. This togetherness brought them a power and influence beyond human comprehension.

What did this togetherness do? It brought them favor with all the people, i.e., the people saw their goodness, it was apparent and every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. People wanted part of what the Church had and were brought to salvation in Christ exactly because of the together they observed. That’s real power, power from together.

Now, many a preacher could launch into the lack of togetherness in today’s world and heap laments on all of us, but it is not true. The vestiges of the early Christian together life, that power, remain still today.

It starts here in our together and the together we have with every Sunday worshiping Christian. It comes from our baptism into the one body of Christ. It comes from our sharing in the bread and cup, the Lord undivided.  It comes from our reading the Acts and Epistles and reading the ‘you’ therein as the plural ‘you.’

From here, we bring the symbols and signs, the sacrament of together to the world as families. This is where our Christian growth, maturity, and discipleship are most often seen. It is the place from which will come favor with all the people. And those who are being saved. It is what we specially celebrate today.

On the
level.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created man in his own image.

As family He created them! God’s plan, set out from the very beginning was that we were to live as family. God’s creation and intervention follows along a singular thread that is family. On this special Solemnity, found only within our Holy Church, we focus on what it means to be the Christian family.

As we have just heard, the family that is our God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – created us in their image. Four chapters later in Genesis God calls out to Cain: “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain replied, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” God was asking such a basic question – where is your brother, why didn’t you see him as your brother, why didn’t you love your brother? Cain’s insufficient answer, his excuse is a lesson to us. God holds us to a much higher standard.

From the beginning God communicated to family. Abraham came from Ur with his wife and brother, and all their family. God saved Jacob and his sons through their brother Joseph. Those sons were the progenitors of the twelve tribes. God’s people were one family, one genealogy. God sent Moses and Aaron to bring His people, His family out of Egypt. They would be victorious and they would fail together. They would do penance together and they would enter the land of promise together. Over and over they fell and rose together. Together they awaited the promised One of God. Together they failed to recognize Him. The gospel as recorded by St. John, which we will hear at the end of today’s Holy Mass, calls to mind: He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.

St. John goes on to proclaim our hope: But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God. What was a family genetically related, born out of the sons of Jacob, has been replaced by a new definition of family. It is the Christian family born as children of God in the blood of His Son, Jesus.

Christian family is inclusion and participation in the Divine family. It means we live in a different way. We live as family from our first profession of faith and our baptism in water and the Holy Spirit. This family means no artificial barrier, no distinction in race or class. We are one family standing at the foot of the cross, where the ground is level, where we all look up and recognize our hope. There we receive salvation on the level. We say with the Psalmist: My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the Lord.