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July 1975

My food is to do the will of the one who sent me, and to complete his work. (John 4:34)

The population of the world is often classified into three groups: the large underdeveloped masses, whose existence is no more than a fight for survival; the more numerous group who have reached a certain level of development and well-being; and the very small elite who hold economic, political, military and scientific power, and who control the social means of communication.

The first group is exploited or pushed aside by all the others; the second, which consists basically of the consumer society, is in turn organised and controlled by the third, through the use of increasingly refined techniques. But these techniques also come to be used in the end by members of the elite in the pursuit of ends which are more and more obscure and remote. They finish by being concerned solely with keeping power, or playing power games with each other.

The picture which comes out is hardly encouraging: either of underdeveloped peoples with downcast eyes, looking for wells or the meagre fruits of the earth; or of newly-rich people dazzled by golden trinkets and artificial stones; or of powerful people working continually to put their increasingly ingenious and deadly tools to doubtful use.

These descriptions are rather pessimistic and generalised but they contain a great deal of bitter truth and there can and must be an attempt to analyse and resolve these situations at all levels. When, however, you get to the crux of the matter, the most pressing and plausible thing is man's return, both at an individual and collective level, to his original relationship with God, in which every life discovers its true and complete meaning.

What springs to mind is a phrase which Jesus addresses to himself, but which may certainly be addressed to all men: "My food is to do the will of my Father, and to complete his work." Food is what satisfies man's hunger, just as water quenches his thirst: they are his basic needs. Jesus is talking, however, about a different kind of hunger and a different kind of food, which are even more basic, both for himself and for man: the food which consists in fulfilling the task for which he was sent. This can satisfy man's hunger and thirst more than any food or fresh water.

Every man who comes into contact with Jesus discovers this truth: that his life is not a useless and chance event. He exists through a precise plan of love and with his own work to complete. He was sent to the earth as a living word of God, spoken once, and unrepeatable. Each person has an irreplaceable role in human history.

This can be seen in the story of the Samaritan woman, which is where this month's Word of Life appears. Jesus refuses the food which the disciples bring, because he has "other food", and the Samaritan woman who has only just met Jesus, no longer bothers to draw water from the well, because she has already found "another kind of water". And by spontaneously feeling compelled, chosen and sent by Jesus to announce the great news to her fellow townspeople, she is already a new person, redeemed and free, with precious work to do. Her wonderful story is read and retold wherever the gospel is preached in the same way as the stories of so many others whose lives were changed by contact with Jesus.

There are countless stores of love which unfolded in the same way and which have never been written. These stories are unfolding still. There are countless sacrifices and acts of heroism which perhaps no-one even knows about which became possible through contact with Jesus: and experiences of unity and communion and the continual rebirth of the revolution of Jesus in the most unlikely people and places.

It is simple to live this phrase of Jesus'. We have only to ask ourselves what the will of God for us is in the present moment of our lives and try to put it into practice. We have only to look around us, and try to see things and people in the way we were taught by Jesus. The needs of the people next to us, the responsibilities of our position, the practical circumstances of our lives and will show us clearly enough what work we can do or what we can contribute. The apparent size of the things we do has no importance, only the amount of love we put into them.

It is certainly never easy. When we act in this way, we can see our own story being written, little by little, in a way we never expected, but in a way we can identify with completely; a project for our lives which is a fruit of our love and our initiative, but which has at the same time been written and produced by God; a life given to the service of others, in which each person realises himself and everyone together realises perfect communion.

These words have the power to straighten the back of any weary man, and enable him to look upwards and beyond to heaven, where each person's story is written down. Each person would find himself there, in his original relationship with God who is love and who can produce in him the kind of love which is spontaneous, creative, imaginative. -has compassion, is one and is committed, and responsible. The story written in heaven is not the story of a robot, but a human story, and acts as a spur to all our human possibilities.

This may seem rather too spiritual, but though we must be concerned with more practical and human problems, we must never forget our first and most important priority. Jesus, by starting our relationship with his and our Father, has also provided us with the essential way in which to become truly men.

Fede

 

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