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May 2006

God has no favourites, but that in every nation those who are God-fearing and do what is right are acceptable to him. (Acts. 10:34-35)

How huge is the heart of God! The divisions between peoples and nations, languages and ethnic groups do not exist for him. In his eyes we are all his children, with equal dignity.

Even the very first Christians in Jerusalem had difficulty in understanding this open and universal way of thinking. Since they all came from the same people, aware of being the Chosen People, it was hard for them to find a relationship of true brotherhood with those of other nations. They were scandalised when they heard how Peter, in Caesarea, had entered the home of Cornelius, who was a Roman officer and a foreigner. No socialising with foreigners!

But for God no one is a foreigner. He "makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" (Matt. 5:45). God loves everyone, without distinction.

This is what Peter had asserted to the Roman soldier, while he too was overcoming the prejudices that kept him apart from the people of other nations.

God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

If God acts in this way, then we his children must do likewise and open wide our hearts, break down all barriers, free ourselves from every form of slavery.

Yes, because we are often slaves to divisions between rich and poor, young and old, races, cultures and nationalities. How much prejudice there is against immigrants and foreigners! How many stereotypes about those different from us! From these come insecurity, fear of losing one’s own identity, intolerance...

Even more subtle barriers may exist, between our family and other families nearby, between members of our faith community and those of others, between different parts of the same city, between political parties, sports clubs... And hence distrust, deep and hidden grudges, chronic hatreds…

With a God who does not make distinctions between persons, how can we fail to take universal brotherhood to heart? As children of the same Father we can discover that every man or woman we meet is our brother or sister.

God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

If then we are all brothers and sisters, we must love everyone, beginning with the person next to us, without stopping. Ours will not be an abstract, theoretical love, but practical, made up of service.

It will be a love capable of reaching out to others, of beginning a dialogue, of getting involved in tough situations, of taking on others’ burdens and worries. To such an extent that the other person feels understood and accepted in his or her diversity and free to express all the treasures they have within.

It will be a love that keeps relationships alive and active among people with the most varied convictions, based on the ‘Golden Rule’ found in all sacred texts and written on our consciences: ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’.

It will be a love that moves hearts to the point of practising the communion of goods, that loves the other’s country as its own, that creates new structures in the hope it is possible to curtail wars, terrorism, conflict, starvation and the thousands of other evils in the world.

God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

This was experienced by Fiore, one of my first companions from Rome, and by Moira a girl from Guatemala. Moira was a descendant of the indigenous Maya Cakchiquel people, and the eldest of eleven children. The native people are often marginalised and this results in a marked inferiority complex when they look at those of mixed race and especially white people.

Here is what Moira said about her meeting with Fiore who did not ‘show partiality’ and who spoke to people’s hearts, making every barrier fall:

‘I will never forget the warm welcome that Fiore gave me. Her love for me was a reflection of the love of God.

My indigenous culture and my upbringing had given me a rather closed and hard attitude, which often pushed other people away from me. Fiore became a teacher, guide and example for me… and helped me to come out of my shell and reach out with confidence towards others.

She also encouraged me to go back to my studies and she supported and helped me when, because of the difficulties caused by culture or the way of doing things, I was tempted to give up altogether. So I was able to get my diploma as a business secretary.

Above all she instilled in me an awareness of my human dignity. She helped me to overcome the sense of inferiority that, as a native person, was stained in me. From childhood I had dreamed of fighting to win back my people’s dignity, but I understood from Fiore that I had to begin by changing myself. I had to be a “new person” if I wanted to see a “new people” come to life.’

By loving the Ideal of unity, with a God who does not show partiality, we can, like Moira, have new dreams: ‘Through my “yes” to God,’ she said, ‘I could open up a new road for the Ideal of unity to reach my people. I can already see that it is beginning to come true in my own family.’

Chiara Lubich

 

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