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August 1977

Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8)

Sometimes a person may say, "he is my friend", and be completely sure of it. It is something which happens occasionally in the normal course of events. But usually there is uncertainty as we often make or break friendships as it is convenient to us. It's rare for a person to have no doubt at all at the back of his mind about his relationship with another, and if such a state does exist it Is one to be treasured. Yet friendship with others is a very important part of our life; in fact the man with no friends is to be pitied.

The Church, called the Body of Christ, may also be considered, and quite rightly, as a family, where everybody can, if they want find a place, find friendship. There are important reasons for this. No one may lay a claim on his membership, because to belong to the Church is a gift of God, based on faith. So all are in the same state, no one is superior to the other, as faith is available to all simply because we are human beings. We are all sons of the same Father who has given us this gift, and so, as in a natural family, we are bound together into people who belong to each other. In a natural family it is the same blood which forges the link between the members; in the Church it is the same life which all share that binds us, and more closely than ties of blood. The Life we share is that of God, a life of giving, and so of love. We are bound together as people of the same mind, with the same spirit of life animating us. Preachers have urged Christians to be brothers to each other throughout the centuries to put into practice what the calling of the name Christian presupposes.

This Word of Life asks of us that complete, unfailing gift of ourselves to each other which brooks no uncertainties. Christian life demands it, and it means we must be unfailing in our love both when present with the others who share this view and apart from them. In practical terms it means all of us agreeing every day to do God's will in the present moment, always. When we fail, to begin again for such love covers a multitude of sins.

When a baby was being baptized recently, a father described it as 'surrounded in a bubble of love'. On reflection we see how easily that bubble may be broken as a child becomes one of the naughty, tiresome children we know. It is when demands are made on our love that the 'bubble' disappears, when we can no longer dominate the one to be loved. So many other examples of this type may be shown, especially in marriage when love may grow cold between spouses.

As mentioned, St. Peter refers to the covering of our sins by such love. This is something which can be a key to the human dilemma if it is experienced in our lives. All of us have 'sin', 'evil', on our conscience; all of us fail and need God's help, and maybe some people feel their situation is worse than others. But all the past, with its sinfulness may be covered over by God's grace. Even tragedies which affect our lives for ever, divorce, wrong decisions, loss of opportunities, etc. ., can be a springboard to God's love. They can make us wake up to the reality of something bigger and greater than our limited human experience on its own can imagine, God's life itself. Obviously our past will always affect us, but if, despite our suffering because of evil and sin, we can go out and love in concrete terms, then we will begin to be changed people. We will learn the secret of making all that happens grist for the mill to fulfil the plan God has had especially for us, so that we may grow in love and become perfect in him.

Jonathan Cotton, O.S.B.


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