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December 1988

If anyone has two tunics he must share with the person who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same. (Lk. 3:11)

This Word of Life is taken from the preaching of John the Baptist. The evangelist, Luke, tells us that in the crowd who came to the Jordan to be baptised, there were also publicans (tax collectors for the Roman authorities). Because of their profession, they were considered to be public sinners. There were also soldiers, who because of their pagan background, were considered to be 'far from God'. Luke shows their good will, as demonstrated by the question they asked John the Baptist. They asked him what they had to do in order to be converted and so meet the Messiah.

Very often, in fact, people who were considered to be far from God, like the woman who had sinned, the good thief and so forth, were the ones who most willingly accepted the Gospel.

If anyone has two tunics he must share with the person who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.

This exhortation, with its very practical suggestions, is the answer that the Baptist gave to these people of good will. By telling us of this episode, Luke wants to help us understand better that the conversion of heart required in order to meet Jesus, does not consist in beautiful words or sentimental enthusiasm. Rather, it consists in doing God's will, and especially in loving our neighbour. It consists in concrete acts of solidarity, in sharing our goods when others do not have the basic necessities like food, clothes, housing and so on.

This is what will later be taught by Jesus. The Christian life, in fact, does not consist primarily in saying long prayers or in carrying out exhausting penances. We are not asked to change our trade or profession, unless of course it is evil in itself. Rather, the Christian life consists in loving our neighbour in our activities and our state of life.

If anyone has two tunics he must share with the person who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.

Another important teaching that the evangelist wants to give us is that friendship with God and holiness are not reserved for a privileged category of people or linked to a particular condition of life, but are open to all.

In addition, he wants to tell us that an authentic Christian life, which hinges on love of neighbour, is easily understood and it also attracts people who might appear to be 'far from God'.

If anyone has two tunics he must share with the person who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.

How can we live this Word of Life?

This month we celebrate the feast of Christmas. For the Church, Christmas is not simply the commemoration of a past event. It is the celebration of a mystery that is always present, always relevant, the birth of Jesus in us and in our midst.

How can we prepare for Christmas? What can we do so that Jesus may be born or re-born in us and among us?

We can love in a concrete way. Let us be careful: our love for neighbour should not stop short at declarations or feeling, but should always go into action, should always be expressed in small and great deeds.

Chiara Lubich

 

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The Word of Life is published by the Focolare Movement