Msgr. Owen Campion
The Sunday Gospel
May 9, 2017 // Columns

The apostles’ blueprint for forming faith communities

Msgr. Owen Campion
The Sunday Gospel

Fifth Sunday of Easter
John 14:1-12

Once again this season, the Acts of the Apostles provides the first reading. The early chapters of Acts graphically reveal to us the lives led by the early Christians. Very obvious in this glimpse into events so long ago is the primary place of the apostles, and the superior position among them of Peter.

The apostles led the community because the Christians recognized the apostles’ special relationship with, and calling from, the Lord. Indeed, reverence for the apostles was so deep that the people placed their possessions at the apostles’ feet, allowing the apostles to control even the material assets of the community.

In Acts, this community was situated in Jerusalem. Although the very heart of Jewish life and a city supremely symbolic for Jews, Jerusalem was not Corinth. It was not Antioch. It most certainly was not Rome. In the total scheme of things, it was not a great city.

Even in Palestine, Caesarea, a seaport on the Mediterranean Sea, was more important. The Roman governor resided in Caesarea, and the Roman occupation had its headquarters there. Jerusalem was secondary.

(The ruins of Caesarea now are in the suburbs of modern Tel Aviv. It is interesting, incidentally, that the only relic of the administration of Pontius Pilate as governor is a stone carved with his name, and the stone was found at the site of ancient Caesarea.)

Very clear is the way of life for the first Christians. Care of the needy, and of widows who were very needy, was their priority. Evidently, the apostles directed such care. The apostles also taught the Gospel, with Peter as the spokesman.

To assist in providing this care, and to proclaim the Gospel, the apostles chose seven holy men to be deacons. Calling deacons was an exercise not just of organization, but also of the apostles’ authority to act in the name of Jesus.

First Peter provides the second reading, centering Jesus as essential in salvation. The reading urges Christians to be true to Jesus.

St. John’s Gospel supplies the last reading. Not a Resurrection narrative, it recalls the Lord’s discourse with the apostles, telling them what to expect in the future. As it looks ahead and frankly suggests that obstacles await, it is an appropriate reading now as people contemplate Christian living amid modern troubles.

Reassuringly, Christ will be with us always. He is “the way, the truth, and the life” a description that belongs only to the Son of God.


Almost a month has passed since Easter. For weeks, the church joyfully has told us of the Resurrection. He lives!

Before long, the season will end. We will return to life in 2017, with its burdens and rewards.

The church tells us that Jesus still is with us as savior, teacher and guide, our rock and our shield. We, today, compose the community of Christians: but to be authentic, our modern Christian community must mirror the community described in Acts.

Applying the picture in Acts to the present is interesting. Which Christian community actually reflects the gathering of Christians in Jerusalem long ago? It has to be the Roman Catholic Church, precisely because the church still relies upon the apostles, with Peter clearly and actually as its head.

The community in Acts showed profoundly was dedicated to the Lord, caring for the sick and the needy. Ever since, care for others has been no charming sideline for Christians. It is of the essence of their religion.

Finally, the church tells us, as the Easter season concludes, that Christ is with us. In turn, we must draw ourselves into the community that the Lord created.

Being in the community is more than joining a club. We must give our hearts to the Lord freely, totally.


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