Inverting the usual dynamic

from Living City, November 2011

In Chiara Lubich’s spirituality of unity, love of neighbor is not only a consequence of loving God, but the indispensable path to loving God. Love for God inevitably leads to love of neighbor, and loving one’s neighbor in turn leads to union with God.

In 1946 she wrote: “Jesus our model taught us two things alone, which are one: to be children of only one Father, and to be brothers and sisters to each other.”

She elaborated on this connection in a meditation from 1949: “Our inner life is fed by our outer life. The more I enter into the soul of my brother or sister, the more I enter into God within me. The more I enter into God within me, the more I enter into my brother or sister. God-myself-my brother or sister: it is all one world, all one kingdom.”

Within this “one kingdom,” love of neighbor is not a secondary consequence, but an integral, inescapable, even essential dimension of love for God.

In Tokyo, sharing her Christian experience with members of the Rissho Kosei-kai, she summarized: “The heart of my experience is all here: the more one loves people, the more one finds God; the more one finds God, the more one loves people.”

This perspective inverts the usual dynamic of human relationships, in which love for others compels gratitude to the one who offers that love. Instead, the neighbors who welcome my love become my benefactors because, as Chiara explains, “they have obtained for us what we were seeking all along” — union with God. Therefore, “we should be grateful to them.”

This new dynamic imbues all relationships with a sense of reciprocal gratitude. Chiara wrote in 1949: “The person next to me was created as a gift for me and I was created as a gift for the person next to me. On earth all stands in a relationship of love with all: each thing with each thing. We have to be Love, however, to discover the golden thread among all things that exist.”

From Focolare: Living a Spirituality of Unity in the United States, pp. 39–40

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