Chiara Lubich visited Germany in 1998, from November 1 to December 13, spending time at Aachen, Münster, Augsburg and then in Berlin at the invitation of the Evangelical Church community. In her address, part of which is published below, Chiara points to the law of love as the master key to unity among Christians and to dialogue with all people of faith.

Chiara Lubich
Chiara Lubich

The plain fact is that if we Christians now, at the dawn of the third millennium, take a good look back at our 2000 years of history and particularly at the last millennium, we cannot fail to be saddened by what we see: a painful succession of misunderstandings, arguments and conflicts. These have caused many rips and tears in the “seamless robe of Christ”, which is His Church. And whose fault is this? Without doubt, countless historical, cultural, geo-political, social factors have played their part…. But could it also be due to a weakening among Christians of their characteristic unifying bond of love?

In fact, when we try to address the painful situation we find ourselves in, we must keep in mind the guiding principle of our common faith: God Love who calls us too to love. In these our times it is God Love who, in some way, must return once more to reveal Himself also to the Churches we are part of. It’s true that we can’t really know how to love others unless we have experienced being deeply loved ourselves, unless all Christians are convinced of how much God loves us.

He loves us as individual Christians and also as Church. He loves the Church in so far as it has been faithful to God’s plan for it, but also – and herein lies the wonder of God’s mercy – He loves the Church even when it has not corresponded to that plan and has allowed divisions to occur, as long as now it is seeking for full communion with the other Churches. This is the consoling conviction that led John Paul II, trusting in the One who can draw good from what is bad, to reflect:

“Could it not be that the divisions have also been a way which has led and is leading the Church to discover the many treasures contained in the Gospel of Christ and in the redemption he brought about? Perhaps such a wealth would not have come to light otherwise.”

If God loves us, we cannot remain inert in the face of such divine benevolence. As true sons and daughters, we must respond to His love with love, individually and as Church. Perhaps we can say that the Churches over the centuries may have hardened somewhat within themselves against the relentless tide of indifference, of misunderstanding, if not of actual hatred between them. So now we need a supplement of love in each one; we would need, in fact, a whole tidal wave of love to invade all Christianity.

Love towards the other Churches is what we’re talking about here, together with mutual love among the Churches: a love that enables each one to be a gift for the others, so that it is possible to hope in a Church of the future which is one, in which one alone is the truth, expressed in many ways, observed from different perspectives, made even more beautiful by the variety of interpretations.

It’s not that any of the Churches would have to “die” (as some may think), rather each one will have to be “reborn” in unity. And to live in this Church of the future, in full communion, will be such a wonderful, miraculous reality, that it cannot fail to be noticed by the whole world.

The mutual love we are talking about, is only truly evangelical and therefore valid, if it is lived out to the measure indicated by Jesus: “Love one another – He said – as I have loved you. No-one has greater love than this, to give your life for your friends.” (Jn 15,13). And how did Jesus die? In His passion and death, Jesus suffered the agony in the garden, being scourged, the crowning with thorns, the crucifixion … and then the culmination of His suffering expressed in His cry: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27,46).

This, according to theologians and mystics, is His deepest trial, His darkest hour.
So from this, it would seem that if we are to take up the goal of building full communion in mutual love, it will be necessary for us today to contemplate this particular suffering and to find ourselves in it. It makes sense. Because if we look at Jesus, who offered Himself as a remedy for the sin of the world and for the division of mankind separated from God and hence divided among themselves, He could not achieve this mission without experiencing in Himself that profoundest separation: of Him – God from God, feeling Himself abandoned by the Father.

Jesus, however, re-abandons Himself to the Father – “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk 23,46) – and in so doing overcomes that infinite suffering and brings mankind into the heart of the Father and into a reciprocal embrace. And if that is how things are, it’s not hard to see Him as the brightest star to guide us along our ecumenical way; to see Him as the pearl we need to find in order to enter into the Kingdom.

It would seem that an ecumenical effort may be truly fruitful in proportion to how much those working on it are able to recognise in Jesus crucified and forsaken who re-abandons Himself to the Father, the key to understanding every disunity and to rebuilding unity. Effective ecumenism calls for hearts that are touched by Him, crucified and forsaken. Hearts that do not flee from Him, but understand Him, love Him, choose Him and know how to recognise His divine face in every disunity they meet. Hearts that find in Him the light and strength not to get stuck in the chasm and trauma of division, but rather to find ways of going beyond and finding healing, all possible healing there.

In this way we can see how mutual love activates unity. Before being nailed to the cross, before experiencing abandonment from the Father, Jesus, in a long prayer for unity, asks: “that all may be one” (Jn 17,21). Now unity, when lived, itself produces an effect which is another important impulse to a living ecumenism. I’m referring to the presence of Jesus among a group of people, among a community. As Jesus said: “Where two or more are united in my name, I am in their midst” (Mt 18,20).

Have we really thought about what this means? Have we experienced it? Jesus present among a Catholic and an Evangelical who love one other; Jesus among Anglicans and Orthodox, among members of the Armenian and Reformed Churches… Jesus Himself! What peace this gives, what light this presence of His shines on our ecumenical journey…?

You may visit this link for the longer text of this talk:

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