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March 1975

Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active. (1. John 3:18)

To make, to act, to produce, to be efficient. To rise to new levels of production and technology. These are the values of our world, which seems to be moving faster and faster. Something about it attracts and stimulates us, but something makes us recoil. We are stimulated, and often feel reproof, in face of the variety of things men will do, the efforts, sacrifices, and risks they will take, the long hours of study and training they will undertake, often in the pursuit of relatively unimportant things.

Compared to such people, Christians seem to do very little, in carrying out what Jesus entrusted to us-the greatest ideal in the world. Amidst the efficiency and vigour we admire, however, some things repel us. At times it is the lack of warmth or meaning, and at other times the deep-rooted egoism which respects only success, profit, power, self-assertion and even oppression, as in the wars, bloodless or otherwise, which we witness continually.

This month's Word of Life provides us with the fresh, Christian answer to this: "Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active," Christians must move, and act, but our action must be born from love, which in a definitive and continuous way compels us to act.

John emphasizes above all the latter: true love urges us to practical acts for our brothers. To add strength to what he was saying, he repeats it, as was common in the Hebrew language, first in a negative, and then in a positive way. "Not just words, or mere talk," but "something real and active" in other words, something true, forceful, and sincere.

We prove our love with acts. The whole gospel is full of this warning. As regards our love for God, 'Not who says Lord, Lord. but he who does the will of my Father, will enter the kingdom of heaven," says Jesus. And as regards our love for man, when Jesus returns his judgement will be based upon what we have actually done for the least of his brothers. We will be judged on what we have done for the hungry and thirsty, the sick, the homeless, the lonely, what we have done to show the meaning of life to those who do not know, and what we have done to help those who have strayed to find God again.

There are many ways of living this word. We can put it into practice in our immediate relationships with those who pass us by, or those who live with us. We can live it through the service we render with our daily work, through our social work in the broad as well as the narrow sense, and any political activity carried out with honesty and dedication. Besides these occasions we have our continual work to diffuse the gospel and build the Church.

This kind of action is not measurable in terms of efficiency or human success. According to the gospel, praying and suffering are also something real and active, and are perhaps more important than anything else.

The gospel rejects all forms of laziness, and urges us tirelessly and continuously to act. The word of God is something to act upon. "Do what the word tells you," says James. Do not just listen, and delude yourselves. In the word of God, doctrine and life, action and light, are one.

Words which do not come from God are useless, and John's words put us on guard against them. We must be careful, for eloquent speeches on social justice and serious human problems can turn into "revolutionary small-talk" and prophetic warnings can turn into back-biting and discord. Jesus is not so much inviting us to talk about justice and love, but rather is calling upon each man's conscience to do something practical for his neighbour.

The following story corresponds closely to a very common experience.

"If you want to dig a large hole, draw up a simple plan, if you wish; but more important, start immediately to dig. In due course people will gather around and discuss among themselves the best way to do it, and they will offer you lots of advice. But if you wish to finish the hole, listen with one ear only, and do not stop to chatter. If you stick to the job, someone will eventually come along who is really willing to help you. It is important then that you have a spare pick, for him to use."

Anyone who wishes to build the kingdom of heaven must do likewise.



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