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January 1988

Perfect love casts out fear. (1 Jn. 4:18)

The Word of Life this month comes from St. John's first epistle, which he had sent to his communities in Asia Minor so as to put them on their guard against serious errors that had begun to appear. One error concerned what love for God means.

'Perfect love' in this context does not mean a special grade of intensity in living Christian love, it means the very reality of this love. It means true, authentic love for God as opposed to false, mistaken love, which is the fruit of error and illusion. This is the love which comes from God, which Jesus brought on earth and which has been poured into our hearts through the gift of his Spirit.

Perfect love casts out fear.

St. John goes on to look at the various effects this love is bound to produce in anyone who possesses it.

One effect is that you observe his commandments, this is a mark of true love for God. We are inspired by true love of God to carry out his commandments. We can be sure we are in his love if we put his Word into practice; Jesus said so clearly: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (Jn. 14:15) Among these commandments there is one which sums them all up and Jesus called it his commandment: "By this all men will know you are my disciple if you have love for one another" this mutual love does all it can to build true harmony among brothers and sisters. (Jn. 13:35)

Perfect love casts out fear.

Casting out fear is another effect and distinctive sign of this love. True love for God, fed continually by the living of his Word, gives us the experience of union with God, and opens our heart to God. When you are in this true love you feel as if you are held like a child in its fathers arms. You have no fear at all about people, events, life or death. You are full of confidence and are at peace. You experience the riches of God's grace and his special providence, his blessing in the different activities you undertake.

Perfect love casts out fear.

This Word of Life which has great depth in its seeming simplicity leads us to the practical expression of the Christian life. The essence of the Christian life is to love God and the love of God consists in observing his teachings: above all reciprocal love. Let's five mutual love with the maximum intensity and we will no longer be afraid.

This month we celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This Word of Life can help the baptised members of the different Churches to welcome each other, to appreciate one another and to get to know each other better. It will help them to pray and work together to rebuild full communion among the Churches. If they are guided by this love, God will bless all their efforts and will gradually lead them towards complete unity.

The witness of Christ's Church united once again is surely what the world needs most today.

Chiara Lubich


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