Sunday, 29 May 2016

Fede: flinging open the doors of the Trinity


This morning, another of Chiara Lubich's first followers has completed his earthly journey. Giorgio Marchetti, who received the name “Fede” (faith) from Chiara, was a focolarino, medical doctor, psychologist, moral theologian and priest, and I give thanks to God for the gift that he was for me personally. I first met Fede over twenty years ago, during a meeting in Rome of which I have three lasting memories. First, Fede's deep, radiant and existential smile, which seemed more a smile of his every atom that just of his face. Second, his utter rootedness in the present moment, as a result of which he almost entirely ignored the carefully crafted schedule of the four day meeting to tell us what was at the forefront of his soul at the beginning of any given session during which he spoke. Third, the experience he shared of his call to follow Jesus. Fede, pretty much in the first sentence I heard him say, declared that he never felt called by Jesus. Instead, he met others who had so obviously been his followers that he felt like someone who goes up to Jesus and says to him: “Let me follow you.” All of this has had a powerful impact on me during a time when I was discerning my own vocation, and I would like to thank God for the gift of Fede on this, his dies natalis.

Others have known Fede far better than I and have been far closer to him, and I hope that they will share their rich experiences of who he was for them. As a way of thanking Fede myself, I have selected - and translated into English - a couple of my favorite passages from his writings, which I would like to share with you next.

First, there is a particularly lucid passage about how love and freedom mutually strengthen each other, from a talk entitled “The conquest of freedom”:
“In practice we see that a person grows humanly and spiritually and that they mature and become fulfilled not by looking at themselves in an effort of self-perfection, but by looking at others, and on the back of their giving themselves, they grow and fulfill themselves, almost without realizing it, not by looking at themselves in the mirror, but by looking at others.

This love makes freedom grow in us. Why? Because in every act of love we, giving ourselves, somehow “lose” ourselves, but by doing so we free ourselves from all the things of which we may be prisoners. But, by being love, we grow. And we grow with a full heart: pure and full, free and full. Therefore, as freedom lets us love, so love increases freedom.”
Second, a beautiful reflection on what makes love perfect:
“[Love] cannot be but reciprocal, for it is the love of the Trinity itself that Jesus made come down to Earth and in which he made us take part. Like this he, in fact, prayed to his Father: “May the love with which you loved me be in them and I in them.” (John 17;26) It is therefore the same love that connects us with God and with one another, to the point of making us “perfect in unity”, as John always says, that is, “one”, like Jesus and the Father are one. If we love one another reciprocally, “God remains in us.” (1 John 4:12) The more unity grows among us, the more unity grows with him, and vice versa; we are therefore not called to sanctify ourselves alone but together, and for each one of us to feel responsible for each other, each members of one another. If we love, Jesus is still with us, as he promised us: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) God in us, God among us: this is enough for us, of course, to understand that love is the essence of Christian life.”
Third, advice on how to think of and deal with inevitable difficulties:
“Each one of us, in their own life, cannot help but experience sufferings, to meet, or rather to collide with difficulties. Even just being aware of this allows us to be prepared to face them. And it is important, in fact, to face them: that is, not to let them effectively take over; I’d say in other words, it should not be they who “live us” but we who “live them”, with full awareness and with all the freedom we are capable of. This applies to all the difficulties we encounter, physical, spiritual, social, environmental.

A difficulty that I would like to reflect on is “temptation”: by that I mean thoughts or circumstances or inner drives that tend to distract us from our life’s project that we are pursuing in an attempt to be consistent. Here in particular it is important and fundamental to be aware of them, that is, pulling them out of the subconscious, “not to sleep on them” but to look them in the face and reject them with utmost determination. This applies to everyone; but for us Christians, in particular, there are those temptations that can distance us from God and from the life that he proposes to us: the one that we most deeply desire.

And here, in addition to our determination, what is worth a lot, and takes first place, is trusting prayer. But we can say the same also with regard to all other types of difficulty. Some we can resolve. Others we will have to accept, but it is possible not to get crushed by them. Beyond interior attitude, it may be useful to share them with other people you trust. For us Christians, it is important to unite our sufferings with those of Jesus crucified and abandoned, and possibly share them with other people united by the “new commandment” of Jesus, who love one another with his love to the point of being able to count on him personally, as he promised: Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)”
Fourth, on the importance of remaining in love:
“What God expects of us, more than the great acts of virtue or heroic deeds and even more than a scrupulous fidelity to his teachings, it is our love for him, overflowing to men. He is a Father who expects us to start and to continue with him, in a thousand ways, a personal dialogue that will last beyond death. Our love can be turned to God or to men and permeate our relationship with all creatures; but remaining in this divine-human reality of love always has the consequence of “remaining in God.”

And this is not just some nice expression, nor some keeping in touch with him, like with someone of whom you think and whom you love; instead, it is a communion that reaches the totality of our being. There are a thousand circumstances that can make us exit this reality. For example, when we approach someone full of good will and with all the love that we are capable of, it is always a tough injury if we receive hatred, dislike, or even indifference from them in return. Or, it can happen that what we do is misinterpreted; and misunderstandings arise. It is not easy then to remember that regardless of any possible explanation, that which has value, however, is to ”remain in love.” Many of us have known slanders, insults, teasing and cheating of every kind. Many know what wounded pride, humiliation, the desire to pay back in kind, or the blind rage of impotence mean, instead of remaining in the newness of the kingdom of Jesus. But who manages to “remain in love,” learns to forgive, to repay evil with good, to pray for those who persecute us, and to give double of what is asked of us, in short, to live all of the Gospel.”
And, finally, a reflection on the commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples:
“[What] resonates in our minds and hearts are the words said to his disciples: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34). He calls us therefore to participate in His own love towards men; This is His commandment, a New Commandment, the synthesis of all the moral teaching of Jesus. […]

In fact, Jesus says : “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:14) (and all his commandments are summed up in his commandment); and then he resumes: “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:15) A friendship that is even mutual immanence: “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” (John 15:4) Next, he promises his disciples that if they will love Him, then the Father too will go and live in them; he promises the Holy Spirit; he promises that every prayer will be heard. More than a command, then, it is the revelation of Love, the door of the Trinity flung wide open. It is a love that, before being commanded, is given as a gift; and it is the same love that binds the Father to the Son: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” (John 15:9) And it is a love that contains all the loves of which Chiara spoke, referring to Jesus Forsaken: fatherly, motherly, brotherly, spousal.”