Summary: The command to become poor for the Gospel’s sake is really a liberation to preach the Gospel.
Tuesday of Second Week in Easter
Today’s reading from Acts is a little scary. We always worry about the preaching of the Gospel, lest it impact on our lifestyle. It looks today as if Luke is telling us to sell our property and give it to the poor or to the community for the poor.
A couple of realities are working in this story. First, it is the fulfillment of Jesus’s command in Luke to go, sell all that you own, and follow Jesus. It is the recollection of the historical reality that the early disciples took Jesus at His word, and sold property for the benefit of the poor of the community. Specifically, this Christian extremist, son of Nabas, named Joseph, sold land and gave the proceeds to the apostles.
Second, it is the embodiment of the first of the beatitudes: blessed are the poor, for they shall inherit the kingdom of God. Barnabas later becomes the disciple who takes St. Paul in tow on the first missionary journey. It is on that journey that Paul discovers his calling to be the apostle to the Gentiles. So Barnabas’s gift, his free will offering of what he owned for the service of the Gospel, is the payment for a life of fruitful work in evangelism. It is certainly a validation of the vow of poverty taken by religious today.
Is there anything wrong with owning property? Not at all. Productive property is the basis of economic freedom. Those who don’t own productive property are wage slaves of another person, or of the megagiant industries of the world like WalMart. And we have seen that companies that are too big to fail can fail, or, in failing, take the whole economy with them!
But there is a liberation in giving it all away, too. It is the ultimate liberation, to escape being hostage to property for the service of the Gospel. I recall in my years in business that I often wanted to take a moral stand, but sometimes hesitated to do so because I might offend one of my clients, and lose that revenue stream. The poor man can stand up for what is right because, since he has nothing, he has nothing to lose. The brothers and priests can witness to the Gospel because no one can threaten their property, or their wife or kids or even their jobs. Their jobs are to witness to the truth of Jesus Christ, and they can do that even in prison. I think of Bishop Oscar Romero’s witness, or Bishop Yanta’s witness. They could not be held hostage to some person or thing they valued, because they valued all as nothing in comparison to the love of Jesus and His truth. Let’s pray that many more follow in their footsteps as witnesses to the Gospel in poverty, chastity and obedience.