September 2006

This is a Word that gives life, the life of the Gospel, and, at the same time, it is a Word that needs to be lived out. If God speaks to us, how can we not welcome his Word? The Bible repeats God’s invitation to listen to him a total of 1,153 times. The Father extended the same invitation to the disciples when the Word, his Son, came down to live among us: “Listen to him” (Mt 17:5). The listening that the Bible speaks about, however, is done more with the heart than with the ears. It means to adhere completely, to obey, to make our own what God tells us, with the trust of a child who abandons himself in his mother’s arms and lets her carry him. This is what the apostle James reminds us of in his letter:

«Be doers of the word and not hearers only»

In this Word we hear an echo of Jesus’ teaching. For instance, “blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Lk 11:28), and again, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it” (Lk 8:21). Using an image given by Jesus, James compares the Word to a seed that has been put in our hearts and urges people to “humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you” (Jas 1:21). But to welcome and hear it is not enough. Just as the seed is destined to bear fruit, so the Word of God has to grow into deeds. Jesus had explained this in the parable of the two sons whose father asked each: “Son, go out and work in the vineyard.” One said, “ ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.” The other, however, said, “‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went” (Mt 21:28-30). The son who later obeyed his father showed with his deeds what it really means to hear the Word. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that a person who lives the Word will set a firm foundation for his or her life: “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock” (Mt 7:24).

«Be doers of the word and not hearers only»

Jesus expresses all his love for us in each one of his words. Let us incarnate them, let us make them our own, and if we put them into practice a great life force will be set free in us and all around us. Let us fall in love with the Gospel to the point of allowing it to transform us and to overflow onto others. This is our way of loving Jesus back. It will no longer be us who live, but Christ will begin to live in us. We will experience what it means to be free from ourselves, from our limitations, from all those things that tie us down. Moreover, we will see the revolution of love that Jesus, now free to live within us, will set off in the surrounding social structures.

«Be doers of the word and not hearers only»

We experienced this from the very beginning of the Movement. Because of the frequent bombardments of Trent during World War II, we ran to the air-raid shelters carrying with us only a little book: the Gospels. We would open the book and read it. Thanks to a particular grace of God, I think, those words that we had heard so many times stood out for us with a new light. They were words of life, to be lived out right away. “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22:39)—even in the midst of the sadness and tragedy of the war, the people that were touched by this love would rediscover how to smile and be serene and find meaning in their lives. “Give and gifts will be given to you” (Lk 6:38)—after making a little act of generosity we were overwhelmed by the abundance of providence that would arrive; goods that we would then freely distribute throughout the city to those in need. We thus witnessed the growth of an active community around us, a community that grew to 500 people in just a few months. All of this was the fruit of our communion with the word, which was constant, and energized us moment by moment. We were inebriated by the word; we could say that the word lived us. It was enough to ask one another: “Are you living the word?” “Are you the word lived out?” to increase our speed in living it. We have to go back to living as we did in those days. The Gospel is always timely. It is up to us to believe in this and to experience it.

Chiara Lubich

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