December 2001

These are decisive words for our life and our witness in the world.
To explain the behavior of Christians, Paul likes to use the example of the clothes that the followers of Christ should wear. Also in his letter to the Colossians he speaks of the virtues that should fill their heart like many articles of clothing. They are: heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another (see Col 3:12-13).
But “over all these,” he says, almost as if he were thinking of a belt that ties everything together and perfects, enhances our whole appearance, “put on love.”
Yes, charity; because it’s not enough for Christians to be compassionate, humble, gentle, patient…. They must love their brothers and sisters.
But doesn’t love mean – someone might object – being kind, compassionate, patient, and forgiving? Yes, but there is more.
Jesus taught us the meaning of love. It consists in giving our life for others (see Jn 15:13).
Hatred takes away the life of others (“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” [1 Jn 3:15]); instead, love gives them life. Christians have charity only when they die to themselves out of love for others.
But if Christians have charity – says Paul – they will be perfect and all their other virtues will acquire perfection.

«And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection»

Of course, some of us might be well-disposed towards our brothers and sisters, inclined towards forgiving and bearing up with them. And yet, if we look closely, often, what might be missing is precisely love. Even with the holiest of intentions, human nature tends to make us turn in on ourselves and consequently to use half measures in loving others.
But we cannot call ourselves Christians if we stop at half measures.
We must make the greatest effort to love wholeheartedly. In front of every neighbor we meet during the day (at home, at work, everywhere), we can say to ourselves: “Come on, take courage, be generous with God. This is the moment to love, ready to give even your life.”

«And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection»

These words of the Apostle invite us, therefore, to examine ourselves, to see to what extent our Christian life is animated by charity. Love is the bond of perfection and as such it brings us to the greatest unity with God and with one another.
Let us thank the Lord, then, for having poured his love into our hearts. His love makes us more and more capable of listening to others, of identifying with the problems and worries of our neighbors; of sharing with them bread, joys and sufferings; of dismantling the barriers that still divide us; of putting aside certain attitudes of pride, rivalry, envy and resentment because of wrongs received in the past; of overcoming that terrible tendency to criticize; of going out of our selfish isolation in order to put ourselves at the disposal of anyone who is in need or lonely; of building everywhere the unity Jesus prayed for.
This is the contribution that we Christians can give towards achieving world peace and brotherhood among peoples, especially in the most tragic moments of history.

Chiara Lubich


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