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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

Brotherly Love

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

(John 13:35 NKJV)

The writer to the Hebrews, after extensively outlining the work of Jesus through a rereading of Old Testament texts to orient bewildered and discouraged believers, does not forget to exhort the recipients to a commitment that is to be sustained: "Let brotherly love continue" (Hebrews 13:1). The Greek text adopts "philadelphía," which is friendship, brotherly love, and then the verb "menéto" "abide" and could be translated "brotherly love abides, endures, endures". The Lord came to bring to earth the ability to live together, as friends and brothers, and to be community together. It is no accident that he said, "You will be recognized by the love you bear for one another". We cannot love one day and that is all; we cannot love every other day; we cannot love when we feel like it or need it. Love is for all times, and it finds its manifestation according to the much-known dictum of 1 Corinthians 13. Love does not have closed doors; on the contrary, it is always ready to open itself to the other to welcome and accommodate. Indeed, it is hospitality that is the subject of the next exhortation, for someone is the first door of love.

In the Passover celebration, Jews used to always set out an extra place so that "He who is hungry may come and eat, and make Pésach (Passover) with us". In the Old Testament world, hospitality was paramount, hotels were unknown, and travel was only possible if families hosted pilgrims, wayfarers. The apostles and all ministers of the gospel in the early centuries were able to travel the world because of hospitality, because they found food and lodging in the homes of willing open people. In our days, especially in the Western world, this warmth has faded, whereas in the early Christian community hospitality was a strong example of brotherly love, a model of divine welcome.

The invitation in the final chapter to the Hebrews is an address of community life, with a strong emphasis on solidarity. The writer, who remained unknown, leaves us in a few lines what might be called a brief 'summation' of the Christian ideal: to live in charity, chastity, poverty, obedience. He does not simply exhort us to visit the prisoners, but to consider ourselves their companions therefore to truly participate in the condition of others: poor with the poor, sick with the sick, prisoners with prisoners. We are faced with the call for a change of mindset, a calling to mercy and compassion against all forms of arrogance, for one must care (love) not out of obligation. Worship to the Lord is in part rendered through one's concrete actions. The Samaritan along the Jericho road had no obligation, and, unlike the priest and Levite, he manifests a mindset of solidarity. Just as Christ became in everything like the brothers and shared in everything our experience, so we are called to do the same. Jesus did not present himself as the benefactor God who bestowed miraculous graces on anyone who asked him, but "became man", participating in the condition of the human being.

It is unfortunate to note that faith in our days continues to be proposed in an increasingly liquid form, that is, without contact and relationships, without community with the other to be loved and served: the rejection of all forms of obligation also corresponds to a total disinterest in the good of others. The first to be ignored are the ministers of reference. There is a preference for secrecy, for privately guarding what concerns one's own life, and one refuses any kind of guidance. One goes to any well and settles according to one's thirst, without the need for the handler, contrary to what Scripture indicates. Yet those who belittle the pastoral role forget those who have nurtured and raised them in the ways of the Lord. The writer, "Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct" (Hebrews 13:7). And further on, "Obey your conductors and submit to them, for they watch over your souls, as those who have to account for them, that they may do this with joy and not sighing, for that would be of no profit to you". There is no shortage of other faith proposals centered solely on total worship at the expense of one's neighbor, near and/or far, "one another". Resisting any temptation to judgment, let us examine ourselves, indulging in personal reflection, of course with all the distinctions one can make or imagine.


Weekly Bible Reading

Plan #44

October 24 Jeremiah 3-5; 1 Timothy 4

October 25, Jeremiah 6-8; 1 Timothy 5

October 26, Jeremiah 9-11; 1 Timothy 6

October 27, Jeremiah 12-14; 2 Timothy 1

October 28, Jeremiah 15-17; 2 Timothy 2

October 29, Jeremiah 18-19; 2 Timothy 3

October 30, Jeremiah 20-21; 2 Timothy 4

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