During a recent homily based on the Gospel of Nicodemus meeting Jesus at night, Pope Francis proposed three marks of a “people reborn,” which characterized the early Christian community. He said then as now a Christian community should be characterized by interior unity, witness of Christ, and care of its members.
He spoke of the “rebirth from on high” in the Holy Spirit, who gave life to the first group of “new Christians” “They had one heart and mind,” the Pope said, and so were a community in peace. “This means that in this community there was no room for gossip, envy, calumnies, defamation. Rather peace and forgiveness: ‘Love covered everything.'”
Francis stressed the importance of today’s Christians’ attitudes: “Are they meek, humble? Do they vie for power between each other in their community? Are there envious quarrels? Is there gossip? [Then] they are not on the path of Jesus Christ. This feature is so important, so important, because the devil always tries to divide us. He is the father of division.”
But he also recognised that problems existed even for the first Christians. He recalled “the infighting, the doctrinal struggles, power struggles.” As an example of this he pointed to the widows who complained of a lack of assistance so that the Apostles “had to create deacons.”
Pope Francis proposed a reflection for today’s Christian communities: “Does this community give witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Does this parish, this community, this diocese really believe that Jesus Christ is Risen?”
He went on to describe the third characteristic which measures the life of a Christian community: their care for the poor. “What is your attitude or the attitude of this community toward the poor?” he asked. “Second, is this community poor? Poor in heart, poor in spirit? Or does it place its trust in riches, in power?”
“Harmony, witness, poverty and care for the poor. This is what Jesus explained to Nicodemus: This comes from above. Because the only one who can do this is the Holy Spirit,” the Pope concluded. “This is the work of the Spirit. The Church is built up by the Spirit. The Spirit creates unity. The Spirit leads us to witness. The Spirit makes us poor, because He is our wealth and leads us to care for the poor.”