“Love your neighbor as yourself.” The measure of the love we must have for each brother or sister is contained in that “as”. In this excerpt from a talk to young seminarians, Chiara Lubich urges us to care for others as we care for ourselves.
Jesus, who came from heaven to earth as the Word of God, had the experience of heaven, and he brought this experience with him to earth. He taught us to live the life of heaven on earth. He gave us the new commandment, in which he explains how we should love one another; he commanded us to live mutual love. He spoke of it as “his” commandment, typically his and new. And the early Christians considered this commandment, this teaching, as the synthesis of all Jesus’ teachings and they practiced it in an exemplary way.
(…) The new commandment. We all know it, but the point is this: how should we interpret it? How should we put it into practice? What is the meaning and what are the consequences of putting mutual love into practice? We can understand this if we begin by understanding what love is, what loving means for a Christian. From the very beginning, one of the things that the Holy Spirit taught us through this charism was this: to realize that those words of the Gospel: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:31) had to be lived to the letter. That word “as” really meant “as”. So whether it is me, or you, or you, or you, it’s the same: love your neighbor as yourself.
We realized that before this discovery, we had loved ourselves far more than we loved others. We were baptized Christians, some of us went to daily Communion, but we never dreamed of loving others as we loved ourselves, if we loved others at all. So we had to convert ourselves and be as concerned about others as we were about ourselves. We did this, we tried to do it with every neighbor we met and a revolution began. It seems impossible, but the Gospel is always fresh; it’s just a matter of understanding it, but a grace is needed.
Why did a revolution begin? Because this way of behaving, wherever we live like this, impresses people – they’re surprised and they ask why we act as we do, what is behind it. In this way, they give you the opportunity to explain why you treat them as you do, why you serve, why you help. And many of these people who question you, want to try to live in the same way. As a result, people who were previously indifferent to one another, as we all are, even Christians, these people are renewed, they become interested in one another. They begin to love one another, to live in communion, giving the idea of what a living Church can be, just by living this one sentence of the Gospel: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Saint Paul says, “The whole law is summarized in a single commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14).
(Chiara Lubich, Talk to a group of seminarians, Castel Gandolfo, December 30, 1989)