The late Paul Harvey had a tag line that any listener to his radio broadcast will always remember. He would tell an intriguing story and then end by saying, “And now you know the rest of the story!” Well, brothers and sisters, the rest of my story is why I am here today.
Time will not permit me to say nearly as much about Chiara Lubich and the spirituality of the Focolare as I would like. So I want to end by sharing the part of her life that has most shaped me.
At almost the exact time that God gloriously brought me out of a twelve year period of exile and personal darkness he introduced me to this lovely woman and to her distinctive spirituality of unity and love.
Chiara said, “In Christianity love is everything.” Ponder that for a moment. How can this not be so? But do you believe that? Really? I do. I’ll stake the rest of my life and ministry on this.
I am currently trying to write a book titled Our Love Is Too Small. I beg you to pray for me. It took me decades to see this but I now know that the risen Jesus is in our midst, within our communion. The effect of his presence is pure holy love. This is what Chiara called “the love of Jesus forsaken.” This particular point of reference must be taught but it also must be experienced.
Paul said, “I die daily.” In this sentence there is an ocean of meaning. Chiara surely understood the essence of this reality in a profoundly mystical and yet deeply practical way. This has framed everything this movement has learned, and continues to learn, about true dialogue. It continues to push you out into the wider world of culture, politics, economics, education and science. This love, she once wrote, is “always renewed by a pact–attempts to translate into limpid and sound doctrine our life of communion, the spirituality of unity, which . . . revives and deepens the reality of Christ’s mystical body” (The Cry of Jesus Crucified and Forsaken. New City Press, Hyde Park, NY, 2001, 131). Here is how she expressed this in 2000:
As a result, the light of the Holy Spirit shines more fully, making it possible to clarify, that is, to enlighten further not just theology, the science of God, bu philosophy and all other sciences and disciplines, consequently all fields of human endeavor, from the economic to the political, from the cultural to the artistic, from the social to the worlds of health and other sciences.
It is a light that can guide our efforts not only in creating the church as communion but the unity itself of the Churches, as well as dialogues with other religions and cultures. In a word, to build all things in Christ (The Cry, 131).
But, some will say to me, this is a false piety. This is an idealism that will surely fail. It is something like the promises of a politician that can never be delivered. If we are not careful we could easily become cynical about what she is saying.
But I stand before you today as a living witness to the reality of her words. I could have become a cynic except by God’s grace I did not. I reached my sixty-fifth year of life in March and I can assure you I am am anything but a cynic. I am more full of the peace, hope and joy that grows out of a living encounter with God-love than I’ve ever been in my entire life. Let me tell you why in my final remarks.
The entire speech can be seen bib the video link below. It lasts for 53-minutes and thus includes much more than was in my prepared text.