On May 8, 2004 in Stuttgart, Germany, Chiara had about 9000 people in front of her at the first “Together for Europe” event. It was a historic moment, in which she offered the key to build peace in the mosaic continent that is Europe and in the whole world: to build pieces of universal brotherhood.
Universal fraternity is and has been one of humankind’s deepest aspirations, and has been present in many great souls. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed, “I have a dream that one day people (…) will come to see that they are made to live together as brothers and sisters (…) and brotherhood will be (…) the first order of business on every legislative agenda.”
And Mahatma Gandhi, said of himself: “My mission is not merely the brotherhood of Indian humanity (…) but through achieving India’s freedom I hope to achieve and progress the mission of the brotherhood of man.”
Universal fraternity has also been the aim of people whose motives were not inspired by religion. The motto of the French Revolution was: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” Although many countries have formed democratic governments and have been able to establish, at least in part, freedom and equality, they have not yet achieved fraternity, which is more talked about than lived.
The person who proclaimed universal fraternity and showed us how to bring it about was Jesus. By revealing God as our Father he broke down the walls separating people who are the “same” from those who are “different”, the walls separating friends from enemies. He freed every person from a thousand types of exploitation and slavery and from every unjust relationship, bringing about an authentic revolution, one that is existential, cultural and political.
Many currents of spirituality down through the centuries have sought to carry out this revolution. A truly brotherly and sisterly life became, for example, the bold and tenacious dream of St. Francis of Assisi and his first companions. His life was an admirable witness to fraternity that embraces all things, not only men and women, but the entire cosmos, including Brother Sun, Sister Moon and the stars.
The tool Jesus gave us to bring about a sense of family in the world is love, a great love, a new type of love that’s different from what we usually understand by that word. In fact, Jesus transplanted on earth the way love is lived in heaven. This love requires us to love everyone, and not just our family and friends; it asks us to love people we like and those we don’t, to love our fellow citizens and foreigners, Europeans and immigrants, people from our own church and those of other churches, people of our own faith and those of other religions.
This kind of love asks us to love even our enemies and to forgive them if they have done us wrong. What I am talking about is, therefore, a type of love that doesn’t differentiate among people. It considers those who are physically close to us, but also those we speak or hear about, those whom we serve each day with our work, the ones we read about in the papers or see on television. Because this is how God our Father loves. He sends sun and rain on all his children – the good and the bad, the just and the unjust (Cf Mt. 5:45).
A second characteristic of this love is to be the first to love. The love that Jesus brought to earth is, in fact, a disinterested love. It doesn’t expect other people to love us, but always takes the initiative, just as Jesus himself did when he gave his life for us while we were still sinners, and therefore, not loving. …
The love that Jesus brought on earth is not platonic, sentimental love, or just words. It is a concrete love that calls for action. This is possible if we make ourselves all things to all people – to be sick with the sick, happy with those who are happy, and be worried, insecure, hungry or poor with others. By feeling what they feel, we then do something for them.
When this love is lived by more than one person, it becomes reciprocal. This is what Jesus emphasized the most. He said, “Love one another as I have loved you” (cf. Jn. 13:34). This is the commandment he called his own and “new”.
It’s not only individuals who are called to live reciprocal love, but also entire groups, movements, cities, regions and states. Our modern times demand that the disciples of Jesus acquire a Christian social conscience. It is more than ever necessary to love other countries as our own.
This love, that reaches perfection when it is mutual, reveals the true power of Christianity because it brings about the very presence of Jesus among us here on earth. Didn’t Jesus say, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. 18:20)? Isn’t this promise a guarantee that fraternity can become a reality? If he, our brother par excellence, is with us, how can we not feel that we are brothers and sisters to one another?
May the Holy Spirit help us all to form in the world, wherever we are, zones of universal fraternity, that grow and grow by living the love that Jesus brought down from heaven.
Cf Martin Luther King, Jr., Discorso della Vigilia di Natale 1967 [A Christmas Sermon on Peace 1967], Atlanta, cit. in Il fronte della coscienza [The trumpet of conscience], Torino 1968.
M.K. Gandhi, Antichi come le montagne [Ancient like the mountains], Milano 1970, p.162.
Cf card. R. Etchegaray, Omelia in occasione del Giubileo della Famiglia francescana [Homily on the occasion of the Jubilee of the Franciscan Family], in «L’Osservatore Romano», 12 aprile 2000, p.8.