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May 1990

But if when you do right and suffer for it, you take it patiently, you have God's approval. (1 Peter 2:20)

St Peter is showing his communities how the true spirit of the Gospel can be put into practice. In particular he refers to each person's circumstances and position in life. Here he is speaking to slaves who had converted to the faith and who, like all slaves in society at that time, were subject to ill-treatment and incomprehension which were totally unjust. These words are also extended to all those in any time and place who find that they have to put up with incomprehension and unjust treatment at the hands of their neighbours, whether these neighbours are their superiors or their equals.

But if when you do right and suffer for it, you take it patiently, you have God's approval.

St Peter advises them not to give way to the instinctive reaction which such situations provoke but to do what Jesus would do. He exhorts them to respond with love and to recognise that these difficulties and incomprehensions are a grace, that is something permitted by God so that they can demonstrate the true Christian spirit. Apart from anything else, through their love they will be able to bring to Christ even those who do not understand them.

But if when you do right and suffer for it, you take it patiently, you have God's approval.

Some people use this sentence and others like it to accuse Christianity of favouring excessive submissiveness, which dulls people's consciences makes them less active in the struggle against injustice. But this is not true. If Jesus asks us to love those who do not understand or who treat us badly, it is not because he wants to make us insensitive to injustice. Far from it! He wants to teach us how to build a truly just society. This can be done by spreading the spirit of true love, beginning ourselves to be the first to love.

But if when you do right and suffer for it, you take it patiently, you have God's approval.

How can we live the Word of Life this month? Today there are many ways in which we too can be misunderstood or treated badly. They range from a lack of tact and rudeness to ingratitude, malicious judgements, offensive behaviour and really serious injustices.

Well then, on all these occasions we must show to everyone the love that Jesus brought on earth and therefore show love even to those that treat us badly. The Word of Life this month wants to tell us that, whilst rightfully defending justice and truth, we must never forget that our first duty as Christians is to love and to treat others with that new attitude of understanding, openness and mercy that Jesus had for us. In this way, even when we defend our ideas, we will never break relationships, we will never give way to the temptation to resent others or to take revenge on them.

By living like this, as instruments of Jesus' love, we too will be able to bring our neighbours to God.

Chiara Lubich

 

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