The first community of Christians, touched by the Risen Lord and his Gospel, "was of one heart and one mind" and "had everything in common" (Acts 4: 32).
The stories in the Acts of the Apostles speak of the faith in the Lord that had an impact on the relationship among Christians. They became one community sharing life and things together. It's about their communion with the Lord and also with one another.
Helmut Koester, professor of New Testament Studies and Ecclesiastical History at Harvard Divinity School, believes that Christianity appealed to people in the ancient world for two main reasons: first, it formed a new community with promises of a future free from sickness, poverty, and isolation; second, in the Christian community, people were equal with other members, and they were to care for everyone.
The Christian faith and way of living quickly spread beyond Christian communities, shaping their culture and society. Hospitals, health and social services were established wherever the Christian faith was proclaimed.
Institutions of education from elementary schools to universities, were also founded by Christians. Even in countries where Christianity is a tiny minority, Christian heath and education institutions are influential, attracting Christians and non-Christians alike.
Despite the perception today that Christianity has lost its appeal and become irrelevant, the Christian faith and way of life can still inspire. Certainly Pope Francis through his simple, humble lifestyle and care for the poor has caught the attention of the world. Mission trips also attract young adults, giving them opportunities "to work alongside (religious) sisters and see their joy and see the true return on the investment of giving up yourself in service to others," said Rachel Harkins Ullmann, executive director of the GIVEN Institute. "You see men and women religious, they're in the jungle and they don't have air conditioning and they're happy. They eat rice and beans everyday and they're happy."
We are called to respond to the needs of people in our midst, in our own community or neighborhood. Many parishes do it through their outreach ministry, attending to people in need with compassion and care, respecting their dignity. What is important is not just giving food or support, but to encounter them with respect and be ready to enriched by them.
A parish can support many groups geared toward support in different ways, from Food Pantry to Respect Life, Bereavement, Consolation.
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