"You have one teacher, and you are all students." (Mt 23:8).
The Word of Life has been lived all over the world already for 70 years. When it arrives, we read the commentary. But what we hope will remain in our heart is the phrase of the Scripture, often from Jesus.
The Word of Life is not simply a meditation. It is Jesus who speaks in it. He invites us to put the Scripture into practice, always bringing us to love and to make a gift of our lives.
It was an invention of Focolare founder Chiara Lubich, who speaks of its origins like this: “I was hungry for the truth, and so I studied philosophy. Just as many other young people seeking the truth, I believed I would find it in study. But then came one of those great ideas from the early times of the movement, which I immediately communicated to those around me: ‘What’s the point of looking around for truth when it lives incarnate in Jesus, the God-man? If the truth attracts us, let’s leave everything, let’s look for him, and let’s follow him.’ And that is what we did.”
They took the Gospel into their hands and began reading it word by word. They found it completely new. “Each word of Jesus was a burst of brightly shining light, all divine! … His words were unique, eternal … fascinating, fashioned with a divine form … they were words of life, to be translated into life, universal words in the midst of space and time,” she wrote (Scritti Spirituali, vol. 3, Rome: Citta Nuova, 1979, p. 124). They discovered these Gospel words were not simply rooted in the past like a mere memory, but they are words that Jesus continues to speak to us, as he does to each person in every time and place.
Yet is Jesus truly our teacher?
We are surrounded by many proposals of how to shape our lives, by many teachers of ideas, some of them so twisted they may even lead to violence, while others are upright and enlightening. The words of Jesus, however, have a depth and an ability to attract and move us in a way that other words cannot, whether they be of philosophers, politicians or poets. Jesus speaks “words of life”; they can be put into practice in our daily lives, and they give us the fullness of life; they communicate God’s own life.
Each month we focus on one phrase, so that bit by bit the Gospel penetrates our spirit, transforms us, helps us take on Jesus’ very own way of thinking, so that we are able to respond to the most widely different situations. Jesus shows himself to be our teacher.
At times we are able to read the Gospel together. We would like Jesus himself, the Risen Lord, living among us who are gathered in his name, to explain it, to make it current for us, to suggest how we can put it into practice.
The really new thing about the Word of Life, however, is that we can share our experiences, the graces we receive when we put it into practice. It’s the same today just as Chiara explained when speaking of what happened in the early times:
“We felt we had a duty to communicate to others what we had experienced; we were aware that by giving it to others, our experience remained and built up our inner life, while, if we did not share it, bit by bit our soul was impoverished. The Word was therefore lived intensely all day long and the results were communicated not only among us, but with those who joined the first group … When it was lived, it was no longer I or we who lived, but the Word lived in me, the Word lived in the group. And this was the Christian revolution with all of its consequences” (Scritti Spirituali, p. 128, 130).
It can be like this today for us too.
Fr. Fabio Ciardi, OMI
Each month the Focolare offers a Scripture passage as a guide and inspiration for daily living. Ever since the Focolare’s earliest years, founder Chiara Lubich (1920–2008) wrote her own commentaries each month. Now Fr. Fabio Ciardi, OMI, theologian and close collaborator of Lubich, is writing the commentaries, reflecting her thoughts and her spirituality of unity.
Read more on this topic:
Brandl, Gary and Thomas Ess, OFM. Gospel in action. New City Press: Hyde Park, New York, 2013.
Lubich, Chiara. “The Word that gives life,” Essential Writings. New City Press: Hyde Park, New York, 2007, p. 120-128.
Lubich, Chiara. God’s Word to us. New City Press: Hyde Park, New York, 2012.
“All belong to you, and you belong to Christ” (1 Cor 3:22–23).