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December 1994

My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognise what is best. (Phil 1:9-10a)

One of the first things Paul asks of the Lord when writing to the Philippians is that they may continue to grow in love. Clearly, he is referring to the love they received from God in baptism, which urges them to put Christ's teaching into practice, especially his teaching on love of neighbour.

Paul asks that the Philippians may have a love that is ever richer in knowledge and light so they might perceive in each situation what is best, what is most pleasing to the Lord.

My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognise what is best.

The 'knowledge' that Paul speaks of here seems to refer to the fundamental principles of Christian behaviour - to the will of God as it is expressed in his commandments and as Jesus continually explains them to us and teaches us how to live them through his Church.

In everyday life a Christian finds himself or herself having to face many problems. There are personal problems, problems in marriage and family life, in work, in the use of goods, in relationships with others and so on. At times the problems are complex and delicate.

Therefore we can understand why Paul affirms that a Christian's love must be always more enlightened and permeated by the Word of God.

My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognise what is best.

When Paul speaks of 'insight', however, he seems to be thinking of practical problems and real situations, seeing all the variety of factors and complications involved, and giving particular attention to the actual persons concerned.

In this context, insight is a love filled with a practical intelligence that is, with wisdom, prudence, sensitivity, understanding, tact, etc. - capable of grasping, in the light of the Word of God, what is best, what is preferable in any given situation.

My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognise what is best.

How can we live the Word of Life for this month? By trying to love our neighbour in a way that is more and more enlightened, so as to know how to choose what is most pleasing to the Lord.

Undoubtedly, this requires a special grace from God, which we should first of all ask in prayer, as indeed Paul makes clear.

But it is also a question of personal commitment.

On the one hand, when faced with decisions to be taken or attitudes to adopt, we need to know more and more about the Word of God and the teaching of the Church on the subject. In any case, our love for Christ urges us to do this. It is characteristic of love that it wants to deepen our understanding of Christ's teachings so as to be able to respond always more to what God wants from us.

On the other hand, faced with a practical situation, our love for our neighbour will need to be clothed with one or other of the virtues: patience, humility, readiness to serve, detachment from self etc. Let us try to focus on this particular virtue and to practise it.

By doing so, our love will be more and more like the love Paul speaks of. It will be filled with light and rich in insight, and we will be able to love our neighbour in accordance with the heart of God.

Chiara Lubich

 

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