Focolare Word of Life – November, 2013

 
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (Eph 4:32)

Word of Life November ImageThis way of life is concrete and essential. It alone could create a different society, one richer in brotherly love and solidarity.
This way of living was part of a mandate given to Christians in Asia Minor. These communities had succeeded in establishing peace between Jews and Gentiles, the two peoples that up to then represented a divided humanity.
Unity, brought by Christ, needs to always be revived and translated into concrete social actions that are inspired entirely by mutual love. In this word of life we find specific pointers on how our relationships should be:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

Kindness means to want what is good for others. It means “making ourselves one” with them, drawing close to them, completely setting aside our own interests, our ideas, and the many preconceived notions that often cloud our vision. We do this so that we can take on the others’ burdens, their needs and their sufferings, and also to share in their joys.

It means entering into the hearts of the people we meet in order to understand their mentality, their culture and their traditions and make those in a certain sense, our own. In this way we can truly understand what people need, and we can discern those values that God has placed in each person’s heart. In a word, kindness means to live for others.
Tenderhearted means we are sensitive and merciful. We welcome others as they are, not as we would like them to be, with their different personalities, political views that don’t match our own, religious convictions unlike ours, and all those defects and habits that irritate us. We need to expand our hearts so that we are capable of welcoming all people with all their differences, limitations and problems.
Forgiveness means to see someone else with new eyes continually. Even in the most beautiful and peaceful environments, in the family, at school and at work, there are inevitably moments of friction, differences and arguments. Sometimes we avoid each other, or we are not on speaking terms, not to mention when we harbor hateful feelings toward those who do not think the way we do.
We need instead to make a determined choice to try to see each brother and sister as if it were for the first time, as if they were a completely new person, without remembering how he or she offended us, but covering everything over with love, with absolute amnesty in our hearts, in imitation of God, who forgives and forgets.
True peace and unity can be attained when kindness, mercy, and forgiveness are lived not only by people individually, but by people together, in reciprocity.
Just as the embers in a fireplace have to be stirred up to prevent them from being smothered by the ashes, it is necessary from time to time to take steps to revive our mutual love and give fresh life to our relationships with everyone, so that they will not be smothered by the ashes of indifference, apathy and selfishness.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

These attitudes need to be translated into life, into concrete actions.
Jesus showed us what love is when he healed the sick and fed the crowds, when he brought the dead back to life, and when he washed the feet of his disciples. Deeds, concrete deeds: this is what it means to love.
I remember a mother in an African family whose daughter Rosangela had lost an eye after a young boy poked her with a stick and even continued to make fun of her afterwards. Neither parent of the boy had come to say that they were sorry. There was only silence. Rosangela’s mother felt bitter toward this family. Rosangela, on the other hand, was able to forgive the boy, and said to her mother, “You should be glad that I still have one good eye!”
“One morning,” Rosangela’s mother later shared, “the boy’s mother asked me to go and visit her because she was sick. My reaction was: ‘Why is she asking me for help? She has many other neighbors who live near her. After what her son did to us, how could she dare to come to me for help?’
“But then I remembered that love has no limits. I hurried over to her house. She came to open the door and then fainted in my arms. I took her to the hospital and waited there with her until the doctors could take care of her. A week later she was discharged from the hospital and she came to my house to thank me. I welcomed her warmly. I had made it, finally, to forgive her.”
We too can fill our days with concrete, humble, intelligent acts of service that express our love for others. And then brotherhood and peace will spread around us too.

– Chiara Lubich
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Each month a Scripture passage is offered as a guide and inspiration for daily living. This commentary, translated into 96 different languages and dialects, reaches several million people worldwide through print, radio, television and the Internet. Ever since the Focolare’s beginnings, founder Chiara Lubich (1920–2008) wrote her commentaries each month. This one was originally published in August 2006.
This monthly leaflet is a supplement to Living City, the Focolare magazine (livingcitymagazine.com). People’s life experiences as they put the monthly sentence into practice can be read in Living City or in books published by New City Press (newcitypress.com).
For information and to subscribe to this leaflet or to the magazine, write to: Living City, 202 Comforter Blvd, Hyde Park, New York 12538; tel: 845-229-0496; e-mail: livingcity@livingcitymagazine.com. Visit focolare.org (international); focolare.us (U.S.).
© 2013 by Living City of the Focolare Movement, Inc.

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Next month:
December 2013
“May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.” (1 Thes. 3:12)