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September 2006

Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers. (Jas 1:22)

The Word of the Gospel is one that gives life and, at the same time, it is a Word that needs to be lived out.

If God speaks to us, how can we not welcome his Word? The Bible repeats a full 1,153 times the invitation to listen to him. The Father made this invitation to the disciples when the Word, his Son, came to live among us: ‘Listen to him.’

But the listening spoken of by the Bible is done more with our hearts than with our ears. It means adhering completely to what God tells us, making it our own, obeying him with the same trust as a child who abandons himself to his mother’s arms and allows her to carry him.

This is what the apostle James reminds us in his letter:

Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers.

This Word echoes Jesus’ teaching when he calls blessed those who hear the Word of God and obey it, and recognizes as his mother, brothers and sisters all those who hear it and do it. (cf. Luke 11:28 and Luke 8:20-21)

Picking up again an image used by Jesus, James compares the Word to a seed that has been placed in our hearts. It should be listened to with humility; but to welcome and hear it is not enough. As the end of the seed is to bear fruit, so the Word of God has to be translated into action.

Jesus explained this in the parable of the two sons. ‘Yes,’ replied the first son when father asked him to go and work in the fields. But he did not go. ‘I don’t feel like it,’ replied the other son, who later obeyed his father and showed by his actions what it means to hear the Word. (cf. Matt 21:28-30)

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus affirms that the person who listens well to the Word is the one who puts it into practice, thus giving a firm foundation to life, like a house built on rock. (Matt 7:24)

Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers.

In each one of his Words Jesus expresses all his love for us. Let’s incarnate his Word in our lives, make it our own, experience the power of life it unleashes in and around us if we live it out. Let’s fall in love with the Gospel to the point of allowing it to transform us and to overflow on to others. This is our way of returning the love that Jesus has for us.

It will no longer be we who live, but Christ will be formed in us.

We will experience first hand what it means to be free from ourselves, from our limits, from all those things that tie us down. But not only that. We will see the explosion of the revolution of love that Jesus, free to live in us, will bring to the social fabric in which are immersed.

Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers.

We experienced this in Trent at the beginning of the Movement during World War II, when we frequently had to run to the air-raid shelters with only a small copy of the Gospel in our hands.

We would open it and read it. I think it was due to a particular grace of God that those Words, which we had heard so many times before, were lit up for us with a new light. They were Words of life, that could be translated into life.

‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’, and even in the drabness of war, people touched by this love began to smile again, found peace, and meaning in their lives. ‘Give, and it will be given to you,’ and we were overwhelmed by the abundance of providence that arrived after even small acts of generosity: goods we then freely distributed to all those in need in the city.

In just a few months we witnessed the growth of a living community around us, composed of about 500 people.

This was the fruit of our communion with the Word, which was constant, a dynamic we lived in moment by moment. We were drunk with the Word; we could say that the Word lived us. It was enough to say: ‘Are you living the Word?’, ‘Are you the Word lived out?’ to increase the rate at which we put it into practice.

So let’s return to living as we did then. The Gospel is always up-to-date. It is down to us to believe it and experience it.

Chiara Lubich

 

 

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