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December 1992

Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)

This is one of the final instructions in Paul's letter to the Christians of Rome. This community, like all the others scattered throughout the Greco-Roman world, was made up of some people of pagan origins and some of Jewish origins. Therefore their cultural backgrounds, their ways of seeing things and their spiritual sensitivities were very different. This difference opened the way to judgment, prejudice, discrimination and intolerance between one group and another. Such attitudes were far from the mutual welcome God wanted them to have.

Paul found that there was no better way to help them overcome these difficulties than to make them reflect on the grace of their conversion. The fact that Jesus had called them to the faith, and given them the gift of his Spirit, was tangible proof of the love with which he had welcomed each one of them. Despite their past lives and their different backgrounds, Jesus had welcomed them in order to make them into one body.

Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Paul's words remind us of one of the most moving aspects of Jesus' love. During his life on earth Jesus always welcomed everyone with love, especially the most marginalised, the most in need and the furthest from God. It was with this love that Jesus offered his trust, confidence and friendship to everyone, thus breaking down, one by one, the barriers that pride and egoism had built up in the society of his time.

Jesus showed us the heavenly Father's completely welcoming love for each one of us, a love that we in our turn should have for one another. This is the first thing the Father wants of us. So we can give him no greater glory than by trying to welcome one another in the way that Jesus welcomed us.

Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

How can we live the Word of Life this month? It draws our attention to one of our commonest forms of selfishness and, let's face it, one of the most difficult to overcome: the tendency to isolate ourselves, to discriminate, to marginalise people or to exclude them because they are different from us and might disturb our tranquillity.

So let's try to live this Word of Life above all within our families and associations, in our communities and amongst our colleagues at work. Let's do so by eliminating from our hearts the judgments, prejudices, grudges, discrimination and intolerance towards one neighbour or another which arise so easily and frequently. These attitudes bring a coldness to relationships and endanger them. They stop the flow of mutual love like rust stops a machine.

Let's also try to live the Word of Life in society in general by resolving to bear witness to Jesus' welcoming love towards every neighbour the Lord puts beside us, especially those whom a selfish society tends so easily to exclude or marginalise.

The act of welcoming others, those who are different from us, is basic to Christian love. It is the starting point, the first step towards building the civilisation of love and a type of society based on mutual love and communion to which Jesus calls us especially today.

Chiara Lubich

 

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The Word of Life is published by the Focolare Movement