A meditation offered by Chiara Lubich in 1973 about Jesus in our midst, who can heal the problems of the world and of society.
In the message of Pope Paul VI for the World Day of Peace, there is a passage near the end addressed to “sons and daughters of the Catholic Church.” In it the Pope invites us to “bring to humanity a message of hope through a fraternity which is truly lived and through an honest and persevering effort for greater, true justice.”
I want to consider for a moment this request of the Pope to his sons and daughters to offer the world a lived fraternity, in order to see how we can put it into practice and offer humanity a message of hope. First of all, we can ask ourselves: is there among us Catholics a basis for creating a more heartfelt fraternity? And furthermore, is today’s world open to this? If we look at the Church and humanity, we’ll see how they are subject to two contrasting tensions.
The Church today, too, as in every age, walks along the way of the cross since it has the same destiny as its Founder. A flurry of new ideas seems to menace the roots of faith and morality, raising doubts about everyone and everything. An overall protest estranges some of the Church’s best sons and daughters, impoverishing her by the loss of even those chosen and sent in her name to announce the Gospel.
The hierarchy itself is at times put on trial by those who, because they want to humanize everything, disregard the value of the ecclesiastical magisterium. Humanity, in which the Church lives and which every tremor strongly affects, is torn by division and by the unleashing of instincts against every form of order and all structures that bind people together.
Then there are social imbalances, the continual outbreak of war that have men waiting with bated breath for fear of a world conflict, and all those moral evils of today. In short: disorientation in every field. However, we can see, parallel to this tragic but real picture, a vague but heart-felt desire for fraternity, for unity that surmounts existing barriers and focuses on the world taken as a whole. It’s a unity that is not just an aspiration, but one which, in the political field for example, is already being realized in different forms, all of them inspired – legitimately or not – by the testament of Jesus.
At the same time, there is an increase in the number of nations which hope to resolve the most serious tensions peacefully. In the social field, the air is vibrating with a sense of solidarity, felt by most adults, and especially by young people. And along with so much bad news, there is the recent surprising phenomenon of great numbers of young people rebelling in the name of Christ against the slavery of sex and drugs.
The Church, through the Pentecost of the Council, continues to raise its authoritative voice above the world’s whisper and give it hope again. It’s a voice that calls on the divine to shine out so as to make this earth come alive, and calls on faith to affirm itself again more beautifully and truly than ever, and to be freed from all attachments. It’s a voice which urges the moral order to re-establish itself to save humanity from its own ruin, which exhorts social structures to be Christianized, calling for priests to be light in the world, and for bishops to co-operate with the Pope so that unity in diversity may shine forth all the more.
And there is the clear, strong and sure voice of the Pope who, in order to instruct and confirm his brothers, constantly announces the truth and again proposes the Council’s teaching, clarifying it for the people of God.
Yet another attractive and present day characteristic of the Church stands out: varied charisms of the Spirit are echoing the desires of the Holy Spirit himself in the Second Vatican Council, calling on Christians to be Church in the deepest meaning of the word, that is, to be communion, to be lived fraternity.
From this comes a revival of movements of different origins animated by a marked sense of fraternity, in a world that is calling out for this, although often in the name of those who do not know how to really offer it fraternity. At times, these groups themselves cannot, nor do they know how to measure the power they possess precisely because they are Christians. Love is needed in order to form fraternity. And by now everyone in the world knows this, to a greater or lesser degree. Muslims too, who do not believe in the Trinitarian God. but only in the One God are, in different areas, responsive to a fraternity based on love.
But the love that a Christian brings – and here is the utterly deep mystery and hidden power that once rendered fruitful, can work miracles – is different from any other love existing in the world, however noble and beautiful it may be. It is a love of divine origin, God’s very own love shared with men and women who, being grafted in it, become sons and daughters of God.
This is the cause and origin of an incomparable reality: human fraternity on a higher level – supernatural fraternity. With this fraternity, something happens which reminds us of Christmas: Christ is born among peoples as Emmanuel, God with us. In this fraternity Christians are united in the name of Christ who said: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Mt. 18:20).
It is a kind of fraternity that can – even where the Church finds itself obstructed in its ministry – render Christ present among peoples. It means (to have Christ) spiritually present, but truly present. It is this fraternity that can bring Christ among the people, in homes, schools, hospitals, and factories, in every community or meeting.
The Council and the Pope have often emphasized that the community, united like a family in the name of the Lord, enjoys his presence. It is this fraternity that makes us Church, as Odo Casel points out: “It is not that the one Church breaks up into a plurality of different communities, nor that the multiplicity of different communions united together forms the one Church.
The Church is only one, wherever it appears, it is all entire and undivided, even where only two or three are gathered in the name of Christ. Now maybe we Christians do not always take into account this extraordinary possibility.
For Christ, it is not enough to represent himself to us every time we solemnly join together for the Eucharistic celebration or to be particularly present in other ways such as in the hierarchy or in his word. He wishes to be with us always. And all he needs are two or three Christians... and they don’t necessarily have to be saints! All that is needed are two or more persons of good will who believe in him and especially in his love.
If we do this, there will be an upsurge of living cells in the Church which, in time, will be able to animate the society that surrounds them until they can penetrate the whole mass. This mass, then enlightened by the spirit of Christ, will be better able to fulfill God’s plan for the world, and give a decisive thrust to the peaceful, irresistible social revolution, with consequences we would never have dared hope for.
If the historic Christ healed and satisfied the hunger of souls and bodies, Christ mystically present among his own knows how to do just as much today. If the historic Christ asked his Father, before dying, for oneness among his disciples, Christ mystically present among Christians knows how to bring this about. If we human beings are united in Christ’s name, tomorrow we will see peoples united.
To help us respond to all that God is asking of us through the Pope, much seems to have been prepared for us by the Holy Spirit. We need to give new impetus to our Christian life which is always too individualistic, often mediocre, but above all, lacking in authenticity.