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October 1977

He who loves his brother abides in the light. (1 John 2:10)

When St. John talks here of light he is talking of the new reality of life lived in union with Christ, the Light of the World. This isn't just poetic theory. It is a concrete experience. Despite the fact that so much of life around us is black and gloomy, the genuine light of Christ is already shining, and when we go out of ourselves in love for someone else we find ourselves living in this light. To love our brother is to live in the light of Christ. It is to know that we have in fact passed from death to life.

But what does it mean to love our brother? Jesus surely isn't just talking about the kind of love that comes to us naturally - for even the scribes and the Pharisees did as much.

To love our brother is to accept him completely as he is, without trying to change him yet to love our brother can never be a passive thing. It is something alive and active, because it is the acceptance of that person just as God sees him - and to do that means we have to be prepared to suffer just as God does as he sees how little we love, how self-centred even the most generous of us are. He sees, he suffers and he goes on loving us.

For us to love our brother deeply means to love him as Christ loved us, to the point of death. Jesus embraced all the forsakenness of the cross without making conditions, so we too have to love without attaching strings to our love.

To love our brother is always to be doing something new, because we are all constantly changing. Each moment of our relationship is different, and each relationship is different. This is an exciting discovery, because it means that we always have to see each person new. It gives impetus to our loving. When someone is in a crisis, or aggressive towards us, or particularly depressed we have to make a conscious effort to love, but when things are jogging along reasonably well it's so easy to forget.

At other times we want to love but we don't know how - a mother her tiresome child, a teacher his difficult pupil, a businessman an awkward client. If we are able to meet with others who are trying to live in the same way, the presence of Jesus among us will give us the light to see the situation in a new way. Not all of us have this possibility of meeting together. but GOD IS LOVE, and if we try to act in love we are in God, and he himself will give us the light to love in the right way, however difficult it may be.

What is important is to love.

Jonathan Cotton, 0S.B.


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