God himself dwells in us if we love one another; his love is brought to perfection within us. (1 John 4:12)
Even though it is generally accepted that the Christian life is a communitarian, social and collective life, the rediscovery of this is always something new. Christianity is not simply living for others at an individual level, but rather is a life lived together, each one living for the other in mutual self-giving.
This month's Word of Life "God himself dwells in us if we love one another; his love is brought to perfection within us" (1 John 4:12) reminds us of this fact. Perfection in love lies in this mutual aspect, which makes two or more become "one".
In the same letter John also writes that our love is perfect if we keep Jesus' words or his commandments. All Jesus' words are summed up in one word and all his commandments are summed up in his own new commandment: to love each other just as he loved us.
Mutual love is the essence of Jesus' words and commandments, and this means that love, in order to be genuine, must contain all the requirements expressed by Jesus through his words and through his example.
Therefore if we love each other, God's love is perfect in us. It must be mutual love, since the love Jesus brought to the earth, the love which he shares with us, is the love of the Trinity. In fact he prayed to his Father with these words so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them." One and the same love binds us to God and to each other, to the point of rendering us "perfect in unity". That means being "love" like Jesus and the Father.
If we love each other "God lives in us". The more this unity between us grows, the more our unity with God grows, and vice versa. We are not called to become holy individually, but rather to become holy together, and each to feel ourselves responsible for the others, as members of each other.
If we love each other Jesus remains among us, just as he promised: "Where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them". God in us, God among us; surely this is enough for us to understand that mutual love is the essence of the Christian life.
In this way mutual love becomes our most important value, and the principal aim of each day. Wherever we are we should try to find other Christians for whom mutual love is not just a beautiful idea, but an agreement to be openly declared, and a reality to be built up and increased day by day. We should not just say to each other, "Certainly, we all agree about love; now let's talk about something else." We should rather firmly establish that we exist for each other, and often repeat our commitment as we put it into practice together.
If we love each other, the community, the living Church, becomes a reality. We learn to feel ourselves co-responsible, both for the Church and for our society, and in this way we can never be dragged around, or merely spectators, but always be active builders of a new humanity.
If we love one another we bring peace, because we have peace among us. We spread the gospel in the most effective way, because we will be known as disciples of Christ by the way we love one another. Because of the unity among us, "the world will believe".
We become a bridge between heaven and earth, since mutual love is a human and a divine reality which not only unites us in time, but extends into eternity.
As well as creating the community. our true personality is brought out in the only really Christian way. We speak a language which everyone understands, since we all know, in the depths of our hearts, that we are happy when we love, and unhappy when we hate, or worse still, when all our relationships have failed in indifference and anonymity.
It could happen that in a family, a community, or in some other already existing group, the members become aware of this fundamental reality, and then everything is renewed, as if by a refreshing breeze. The human love which was present is now completed and perfected and extended to all men.
However it comes about, once the commitment is taken, unity becomes a reality to build anew every day, since fissures of all sizes can start to appear. Mutual love urges us to repair them, putting into practice everything that the gospel teaches us about forgiveness, about not judging, 'about conquering evil with good, and about taking the initiative in reconciliation. By so doing we learn how to prevent breakdowns in our unity, and also how to build it again if it starts to crack.
If we take mutual love seriously, then even if there are no fissures in our unity, it still requires all our energy, our ability to give, our openness, our adaptability, our imagination, our sacrifice, our self-control and all our ability to express and share ourselves.
Mutual love has an infinite number of expressions, since it can impregnate, little by little, all the aspects of our soul, and unite them all.
Mutual love is made up of a thousand details and initiatives. It is made up of perseverance, faithfulness, pure affection, and practical service at any moment. We can and must ask ourselves everyday: "What can I do for him, or for her, or for them? How can I put into practice 'giving my life for my brothers' which Jesus taught me?" Very few of us will in fact be called to "give our lives" in the sense of dying for someone else, but all of us are called to spend every day in giving our lives for our brothers. We do this for God, and not for ourselves, and we each find, beyond our continual self-giving, the fullness which we cannot find anywhere else. Wherever there is perfect love between Christians, there is heaven on earth.