Chiara and her companions really discovered what the Gospel was when they took it with them into the air raid shelters and read it together, before then they hadn’t really known it: no-one had ever spoken to them so clearly. Jesus always acts from God. In return for the little you give him, He showers you with gifts. You are alone and you find yourself surrounded by thousands of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and everything you need from God which then you can share with those who have nothing.
This was how their faith was strengthened, it was based on experience, that no human situation or difficulty could not find explicitly or implicitly an answer in that little book which gives the words of heaven.
The adherents of the growing Movement plunged themselves into living those words; they were nourished by them, re-evangelised and they experienced how what Jesus said and promised was unfailingly true. The discovery of the ‘new commandment’ inflamed them to the point that mutual love became their manner, their way of being. And it was the same love that attracted many people, of every age and social class to come to their gatherings. Loving each other reciprocally was not optional for them, but their way of life that had to be shown to the world.
Chiara wrote: ‘The war continued. The bombardments were relentless. There were insufficient shelters and we constantly faced the possibility of finding ourselves in front of God. All of this gave us only one desire in our hearts: to put into practise in those moments, which could have been our last, the will of God that was dearest to Him. We then remembered the commandment that Jesus said was His and new: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:12-13).
‘We said that Jesus came bringing with Him, from his homeland, his own customs and habits. ‘His’ commandment brought the law of heaven on to the earth, which is, the love between the three persons of the Holy Trinity. We looked each other in the face and each one declared; ‘”I am ready to give my life for you”. As we had to be ready to give our lives for one another, it was logical that, meanwhile, we should meet the thousands of needs that fraternal love demanded: to share joys, sufferings, our few possessions, our own spiritual experiences. We made ourselves do it so that above all else mutual love would reign amongst us.
‘One day, in the first Focolare, we took out our few and poor goods from the cupboard, and piled them in the middle of the room, so that each one of us could take the few things we needed and what was left over we gave to the poor. We were ready to put our wages in common, and all the small and large goods that we had and would have in the future. We were also ready to put in common our spiritual goods…. Our desire for holiness was held in that one choice: God, which excluded every other objective, but included, obviously, the holiness he had thought of for us.
‘Then, there were the difficulties caused by our own imperfections that each one had and with one another, so we decided not to see one another with human eyes, which only notice the speck in the other, forgetting the plank in their own, but those eyes that forgive all and forget all. We felt we had to forgive each other, imitating merciful God, so we made between us a sort of pact of mercy: that is to get up each morning and see one another as ‘new’, as if those ‘defects’ never existed. as ‘new’, as if those ‘defects’ never existed.