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January 2006

Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. (Matthew 18:20)

‘Emmanuel,’ ‘God is with us!’ This is the great and extraordinary news which opens Matthew’s gospel (1: 23). In Jesus, the Emmanuel, God has come to dwell among us.

This gospel then ends with an even greater and more astonishing promise: ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (28: 20)

The presence of God among us is not limited to a certain time in history, to when Jesus was physically on earth. He remains with us always.

How does he remain? Where can we find him?

We can find the answer right at the heart of Matthew’s gospel, where Jesus gives guidance to his community, the Church, on how to live. He spoke of this a number of times: he indicated that the Church was founded on the rock of Peter, saw it called together by his word and gathered around the Eucharist celebrated in memory of him... But here he reveals the Church’s truest identity: it is Jesus himself present among those who are united in his name.

We can always have him present among us, have the experience of the living Church, live what is essential to being Church.

Where two or three are gathered...

If it is he, the Risen Lord, who gathers together and unites believers to himself and to one another, making them all his body, then each division in our families and our communities changes the face of the Church. Christ is not divided. A fragmented Christ is unrecognizable, disfigured.

This is true also for the relationships among the different Churches and ecclesial communities. The ecumenical journey has made us aware that ‘there is more that unites us than divides us’. Even though there are still certain aspects of doctrine and Christian practice in which unity in faith has not yet been reached, already ‘the greatest uniting point of all is the presence of the Risen Christ’.(1)

Meeting in the name of Jesus to pray together, knowing and sharing the riches of the Christian faith, asking forgiveness of each other are the bases for overcoming many divisions. They might seem like small steps to us, but ‘nothing is small if done out of love’. Jesus among us, ‘the source of our unity’, will show us ‘the way to be instruments of the unity which God desires’. (2)

This is how the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity put it when they suggested this ‘word of life’ for unity week, the material for which was written by an ecumenical group in Dublin. In fact, every year since 1968 we have all been living the same ‘word of life’ during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: a sign that gives hope for the path towards full and visible unity among Churches.

Where two or three are gathered...

But what does it mean to be united in the name of Jesus?

It means to be united in him, in his will. We know that his deepest desire, his own commandment, is that there be mutual love among us. So, wherever there are two or more people ready to love each other in this way, ready to set aside everything in order to merit his presence, everything around them changes. Jesus can then come into our homes, into our places of work and study, into parliaments and stadiums, and transform them.

His presence will be a light to solve problems; it will bring creative solutions to personal and social situations as they arise; it will give people the courage to remain faithful to the most arduous choices and be a leaven for human life in all its different expressions.

His spiritual but real presence will be there in our families, among factory workers, in mechanics’ workshops, on building sites, with farm workers, among business people, civil servants, everywhere.

When Jesus lives in our midst because of mutual love, a love that is declared and continually renewed, his presence will be felt anew in this world and he will free it from its new slaveries. And the Holy Spirit will open up new paths.

Where two or three are gathered...

Our own experience allows us to say, with gratitude to God, how true are the words I wrote many years ago, saying ‘If we are united, Jesus is among us. And this has value. It is worth more than any other treasure that our heart may possess; more than mother, father, brothers, sisters, children. It is worth more than our house, our work, our property; more than works of art in a great city like Rome; more than our business deals; more than nature which surrounds us with flowers and fields, the sea and the stars; more than our own soul.’

What a great witness can be given to the world, for example, by mutual love according to the Gospel between a Catholic and an Armenian, between a Methodist and an Orthodox!

And so today too let’s live the life that he gives us, moment by moment, in charity.

The basic commandment is brotherly love. Everything is of value if it expresses sincere fraternal charity. Nothing we do is of value, if there is not the feeling of love for our brothers and sisters in it. For God is a Father and in his heart he has always and only his children.

Let us live to have Jesus always with us, so as to bring him into a world that does not know his peace.

Chiara Lubich

1. Resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 2006 jointly prepared and published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches, p.7.

2. Ibid, P. 10.

 

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