February 2015


The apostle Paul wanted to go to Rome on his way to Spain, and he sent a letter to the Romans before he arrived. Through their countless martyrs they were about to give witness to the sincerity and depth of their devotion to the Gospel, but among them, just as elsewhere, there was no lack of tensions, misunderstandings and even rivalries. In fact, the Christians in Rome came from a variety of social, cultural and religious backgrounds. There were some who came from Judaism and others from the Hellenic world and the ancient religion of Rome, perhaps from Stoicism or from other philosophies. They brought with them their traditions of thought and ethical convictions. Some were called ‘weak’, because they followed particular rules about eating, being, for instance, vegetarians or complying with calendars that indicated special days of fasting. Others were called ‘strong’ because, free from these kinds of conditioning, they were not bound by food taboos or specific rituals. To all of them Paul made the urgent invitation:

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Before this point in his letter he had already spoken about the issue, addressing first of all the ‘strong’ and inviting them to ‘welcome’ the ‘weak’, ‘without quarrelling over opinions’. Then he says that the ‘weak’ in turn should welcome the ‘strong’ without judging them, since they are ‘acceptable to God’.

Paul, indeed, is convinced that each one, even amid the diversity of opinions and ways of behaving, acts for the love of the Lord. There is no reason therefore to judge those who think differently, and even less to scandalize them by behaving arrogantly and with a sense of superiority. Instead, what is necessary is to aim at the good of all, at ‘mutual edification’, that is, the building up of the community, its unity (see Rom 14:1-23).

It is a matter of applying, in this case too, the great standard of Christian life that Paul had recalled shortly before in his letter: ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’ (Rom 13:10). No longer ‘walking in love’ (Rom 14:15), the Christians in Rome were lacking in the spirit of fraternity that ought to animate the members of every community.

As a model of mutual welcome, the apostle proposes Jesus dying on the cross when, instead of pleasing himself, he took upon himself our failings (see Rom 15:1-3). From the height of the cross he drew all to himself, and he welcomed the Jewish John together with the Roman centurion, Mary Magdalene together with the criminal crucified by his side.

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

In our Christian communities too, even though we are all ‘God’s beloved’ and ‘called to be saints’ (Rom 1:7), there is no lack, just as in Rome, of disagreement and contrast between different cultures and ways of seeing things that are often poles apart. Often the clash is between traditionalists and innovators (to use language that is slightly simplistic but readily understandable), persons who are more open and others more closed, interested in a more social or a more spiritual form of Christianity. The divergences are fed by political conviction and by differences in social background. The current fact of immigration is present in our gatherings for worship and further in our various church groups, bringing diversity of culture and geographical origin.

The same dynamic can be seen in effect in the relations among Christians of different Churches, but also in families, in the workplace or in the political arena.

With it creeps in the temptation to judge those who don’t think like us and to feel ourselves superior, in a sterile conflict and mutual exclusion.

Paul’s model is not uniformity that flattens everything out, but a communion among contrasts that enriches. It is not by chance that two chapters earlier in this very letter he speaks of the unity of the body and diversity of its members, and of the variety of gifts that enrich and give life to the community (see Rom 12:3-13). His model is not, to use an image taken from Pope Francis, a sphere where every point is the same distance from the centre and where there are no differences between one point and another. The model is of something many-facetted with surfaces that are different from one another and not symmetrical, with particular characteristics that maintain their originality. ‘Even people who can be considered dubious on account of their errors have something to offer which must not be overlooked. It is the convergence of peoples who, within the universal order, maintain their own individuality; it is the sum total of persons within a society which pursues the common good, which truly has a place for everyone.’

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

This Word of Life is a pressing invitation to recognize the positive that exists in the other, at the very least because Christ gave his life also for that person you feel inclined to judge. It is an invitation to listen, letting go of your defence mechanisms, to stay open to change, to welcome diversity with respect and love, to manage to form a community that is both plural and united.

This word has been chosen by the Evangelical Church in Germany to be lived by its members and to be light for them throughout 2015. If, at least in this month, the members of various Churches were to share it, this would already be a sign of mutual welcome.

Like this we could give glory to God together with one voice (Rom 15:6), because as Chiara Lubich said in the Reformed cathedral of St Pierre in Geneva: ‘Our world today asks each one of us for love; it asks for unity, communion, solidarity. And it also calls upon the Churches to recompose the unity that has been torn for centuries. This is the reform of all reforms which heaven is asking of us. It is the first and necessary step towards universal fraternity with all men and women of the world. The world will believe, if we are united.’

Fabio Ciardi

15 Comments

  • Grazie . Un appunto riguardo all’alusione ai “vegetariani”: forse questo termine non è paragonabile a situazione alcuna esistente all’epoca di Paolo, poiché allora le ragioni per mangare oppure no certi cibi non si assimilavano a quelle che motivano oggi ai cosidetti “vegetariani”. E meno per annoverarli come esempio dei “deboli” . Nella lettera si punta poi su ragioni piuttosto religiose che fanno posto a giudizi, e non “alimentarie” al modo che oggi s’intende nell’ambito della salute.

  • Eu moro em Palmas (capital do Tocantins). Nos dias de carvanal deste ano, pude vivenciar esta P.V. Aqui aconteceu algo inédito . Na avenida principal , onde sempre era feito os desfiles dos carnavais houve um mega evento . A Av. foi fechada, tinham dois grandes palcos onde foram realizados vários shows musicais: católicos, evangélicos, cantores gospel . Cerca de 40 mil pessoas no último dia. Católicos e Evangélicos juntos cantando e louvando a Deus. Era um grande sinal de Unidade .

  • Essa palavra de vida nos enche de motivação para lutarmos contra corrente ajudando não apenas a acolher o próximo dando lhe uma nova chance mas a si mesmo, pois muitas vezes nos deparamos com nossos próprios erros e não temos uma certa facilidade de motivar a sair do erro. Falta garra, falta tudo. Essa palavra nos motiva, nos convoca, e nos fortalece ajudando nos a perdoar a si mesmo e em um todo geral fortalecendo a unidade ” a força que mudará o rumo dos séculos” .

  • Hoy, recibimos un correo en el cuál nos comunicaban cómo habían llegado Claribel y Cecilio a Bolivia y supimos como viven. Cuándo acogemos, somos acogidos….. y juntos caminamos. Supe que necesito convertirme cada día, en la medida de la necesidad de mis hermanos ….. y se amplia el corazón . Ellos son un don con su pobreza, que permiten no me entrampe en necesidades que son solos ilusiones y asumir la responsabilidad de las necesarias , para dar los recursos que les pertenecen .

  • Palavras que faz florescer dentro de nós a importância e a urgência de uma união sincera em primeiro lugar em nossas famílias depois nas comunidades.” por isso, acolhei uns aos outros.”Sabias palavras.

  • Thank you F. Fabio for this Word of Life! It’s easy to follow and to understand. I like also the explanation of the historical part and the context around it. Your stile is definitely different from Chiara’s but it doesn’t disturb me. It’s equally possible to “live it”. I’m sharing it each month with my colleagues at work. The January-word was rather hard to understand, especially the part about the Prayer Week for Christian Unity, but this one is more closer to them. Thank you once again!

  • Gostei muito do comentário detalhado sobre a comunidade de Roma à qual a carta de Paulo se dirigia. É bom conhecer as dificuldades que já naquela altura eram muito reais e peculiares porque estamos habituados a espiritualizar e idealizar aquelas primeiras comunidades como absolutamente perfeitas e assim é como desfolhar um album de fotrografias dos nossos antepassados, da nossa família , que ajuda a conhecer e aumentar o amor por esta grande família que construimos, que é a Igreja

  • Condivido l’impressione di Nieves e Fernando. La Parola di Vita nuova di Fabio Ciardi ha un taglio un po’ troppo esegetico e teologico. Capisco che non si possa essere all’altezza di Chiara ma lei era più semplice, più vicino alla vita quotidiana. Era più facile trovare il modo di viverla.
    Grazie comunque del tentativo. Se non va anche io direi di tornare a Chiara, magari con dei pensieri suoi che si legano ad una certa frase del Vangelo . Ce ne sono talmente tanti di scritti .

  • Il commento è bello, ma come Fernando, credo che non tanto “per tutti “come quelli di Chiara. Questo commento suona europeo: ci sono paesi dove non ci sono tanti “immigranti”, ma “emmigranti”, ci sono regioni dove la diversità religiosa è assai più difficile da vivere che in Germania… Chiara era universale e laica, e suoi commenti non suonavano mai come predica. Forse sarebbe bello se i commenti fossero scritti grupalmente in unità tra persone diversi…o tornare a rileggere Chiara?

  • As pessoas que recebem, mensalmente,a Palavra de Vida, têm uma diversidade muito grande de formação escolar.
    Quanto ao comentário a esta Palavra de Vida, gostaria de fazer as seguintes observações:
    1 – A sua abordagem está muito teológica, o que dificulta o seu entendimento;
    2 – A linguagem utilizada está, ao meu ver, muito rebuscada, o que também dificulta seu entendimento.
    Informo isto, levando em consideração as comunidades com as quais nos reunimos, onde muitos não sabem ler.

  • Deseo recibir la palabra del mes y la diaria, es para lerla y difundirla en nuestras reuniones, soy papa de un hijo adicto en recuperacion que paso por las Fazendas.Gracias

  • Credo fermamente che, ogni cosa buona che porta beneficio a tutti, si conquisti solo con un continuo allenamento a educare alla carità e la rinuncia a ciò che ci piace per il bene comune. La vera carità è un continuo allenamento del nostro cuore all’amore verso il nostro prossimo, iniziando da chi è più prossimo nella famiglia e sopratutto imparando a perdonare e a scusare gli altri e se stessi. Credo che spesso bisogna rinunciare ai nostri pensieri che ci allontanano dalla carità.

  • La Parola di vita mensile è il respiro della mia vita spirituale e anche umana. Senza di essa la vita su questa terra non avrebbe significato, sarebbe un’assurdità.

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