The essence of love


Being in lockdown has often tested our love of neighbour. In fact, it is not easy to live shut up in a house and find ourselves always so close to one another. When this happens we push against each other’s limits and this calls for a “supplement of love” called “bearing with”. It is consoling to know that Chiara Lubich also encountered this type of difficulty in her community life. 

Some days ago I started reading a book called The Secret of Mother Teresa; Teresa of Calcutta of course. I opened it at the chapter that speaks of the “mystic of charity”. I read that chapter and others, immersing myself in those pages with great interest: everything to do with this future saint is of personal interest to me since, for years, she was a very dear friend of mine.

I was suddenly struck by the extreme radicalness of her life, by her totally committed vocation, which was awesome, almost frightening. Above all, however, it urged me to imitate her in the particular, radical and total commitment that God asks of me. … Prompted by this conviction, I began to read our Statutes, sure that I would find there the measure and type of radicalness that the Lord is asking of me. I opened it and immediately, on the very first page, I received a small spiritual shock, like when you discover something in that very moment (although I have known it for almost sixty years!). It was the “norm of norms, the premise to every other rule” of my life, of our life: to generate – as Pope Paul VI put it – and maintain first and foremost … Jesus among us through mutual love. …

I decided to live this norm first of all in my focolare and with those around me. We know that Jesus said: “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn 8:7).  Not everything is perfect in our focolare either. There might be an unnecessary word said by me or by others; too long a silence, a rash judgement, a small attachment, a suffering not borne patiently, which undoubtedly makes Jesus among us feel uncomfortable, even if it doesn’t prevent his presence altogether. I understood that I had to be the first to make room for Him, to pave the way, smoothing things over, seasoning everything with the greatest charity, bearing with everything, both in the others and in myself. “Bearing with” is not a term we generally use, but the Apostle Paul advises us to do it (see 1 Cor 13:7). Certainly, to bear with everything requires not just an ordinary kind of love. It is a special love, the essence of love.

I began doing this. And there were positive results!  Other times, I would have immediately invited my companions to do the same, but not this time. I felt I had to be the first to do all my part, and it worked. Besides, it filled my heart with happiness maybe because, in this way, He came back into our midst and remained. Later on I will tell them, but I still felt the duty to carry on doing this as if I were alone.

And my joy was immense when I thought of Jesus’ words: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13). Mercy! This is the super-refined love that is asked of us and that is worth more than sacrifice, because the most beautiful sacrifice is this love that can bear with everything, that can forgive and forget when necessary. This is the radicalness and total commitment we are asked to live.

Chiara Lubich

(From a telephone conference call, Rocca di Papa, 20th February 2003)

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