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October 1992

If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. (2 Tim. 2:13)

It is very likely that these words come at the end of a baptismal hymn, a kind of creed, which in Paul's day was recited in the Christian communities. He quotes it to remind Timothy, his disciple, of the great truths of faith and the commitments that follow from them, which must be stressed when teaching Christian communities. These truths are summed up and concentrated in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, which baptism invites us to relive. The point is that we should die to sin and rise to the new life of grace.

If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself

Paul emphasises that it is impossible to reconcile returning to sin and the new life to which we are called by baptism. He makes us begin to see the serious consequences to which such inconsistency could lead: Christ would deny us and exclude us forever from his kingdom.

Because, however, Paul can hardly imagine or suggest something so frightening, he immediately backtracks, reminding us of another truth, another characteristic of the justice and holiness of God, a truth that is even more dramatic and is very encouraging: the truth of God's boundless love for us.

If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself

It is true, he says, we can be unfaithful. We are weak, inconstant, and so we do not live up to our promises, with the consequences we know so well. But God's faithfulness cannot lessen. God cannot be untrue to himself. He is infinite love, a love that is immensely greater than our weakness.

If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself

How shall we live the Word of Life this month? It contains a marvellous truth, a consoling truth, a truth that should fill us with great optimism, great courage and give us support always: God is love, God is an infinitely merciful love, so he understands our extreme weakness. He is always ready to welcome us back when we return to him, even forgetting all the mistakes we might have committed and making us completely new.

Therefore, there is only one answer to a love like this: we must start again from scratch each time we go wrong, start again straightaway, start again always, throwing ourselves into the arms of his mercy with childlike simplicity. Of course, sin is something ugly, it is a lack of faithfulness, of love, and we must do all we can to avoid it. But the love of God is far, far more immense than our mistakes. So, worse than our sin itself, the greatest error and the greater displeasure we could give to God would be to fail to have trust in his mercy.

Chiara Lubich

 

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