Cardinal, Archbishop of Naples, Italy
Meditation on 1 Jn 4, 16b - 21
God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.
Love comes to its perfection in us when we can face the Day of Judgement fearlessly, because even in this world we have become as he is.
In love there is no room for fear, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear implies punishment and no one who is afraid has come to perfection in love.
Let us love, then, because he first loved us.
Anyone who says 'I love God' and hates his brother, is a liar, since whoever does not love the brother whom he can see cannot love God whom he has not seen.
Indeed this is the commandment we have received from him, that whoever loves God, must also love his brother.
Dear brothers and sisters,
"God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him", as we have heard in the first letter of John.
Where does God remain? It was the question of Israel and it is our question, as well. How and where can we meet the Lord? Having built the Temple, the wise King Salomon addressed the almighty God by saying: "Can it indeed be that God dwells among men on earth? If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built! (1 Kings 8:27)
God sent his Only Son to remain among us, He made visible the great love of God for humanity. We have experienced once again the truth and the joy of God’s love, in these days. We are able to live God’s love because he came and dwelt among us.
This presence has been revealed through the love of the welcoming Church of Cyprus and of its Archbishop, as well through our love for each other. We shared the quest for peace in a divided world marked by violence and conflict. This presence has been revealed in the past 22 years through the meetings that the Community of Sant’Egidio patiently and tenaciously committed to continue.
Indeed, love conquers fear, which separates us from each other. Fear distances us from the others and leads us into prejudice and mistrust. As John says, perfect love drives out fear. Fear conceals an evil temptation that induces us to distance ourselves from one another, and creates unfriendliness. Fear makes us believe that the long-existing divisions between Christians cannot be overcome, and we have to accept them as something we have to live with.
During these days we have been living one beside the other. Even though sometimes distance can separate us, and division is still an open wound, we have discovered that mutual love, dialogue and encounter lessens the power of fear. So we realized that we are as close as brothers, more than we thought. It the miracle of Cyprus, the miracle of Assisi, the miracle that took roots in my town, Naples. It is the miracle that happens every year with the Community of Sant’Egidio: men and women of different religions, Christians of various denominations and congregations, all are replete with the love of God and rediscover in the others the image God shaped in every creature since the very beginning. Through love, we have seen that God remains in us, and that the risen Christ drives out fear once for all.
Dear brothers and sisters, we have to be grateful to the Lord, for truly love is of God, and his love has touched us and we have become its witnesses. We Christians can contemplate the gratuitousness of the Love of God in Jesus. His love teaches us not to wait for others to love us first, and it unfolds our task, which is to first love our brothers and sisters. As we were unlimitedly loved by God, irrespective of our merits.
Tonight’s prayer purifies us from those feelings and thoughts that distance us from one another, and helps us all to tune in with the heart of God, and with His love, so that we may always obey his commandment: “Whoever loves God must also love his brother”. We are aware that we all are in debt: it is the debt of mutual love. This awareness, which is also an essential element of our faith, was enhanced during our meetings and our dialogue. May the Lord help us all to remain in the spirit of Cyprus, so that we may contribute, through love which drives out fear, to a more human world and to bringing peoples closer to each other.