INTERNAL LIFE AND SOLIDARITY
Where to find the source of a universal brotherhood, within our human family and with all creation? Diverse responses have matured in the spiritual traditions of the peoples of the earth.
For Christians, it is time to deepen the understanding of faith. Not to put themselves forward or claim to have the answer to everything, but to contribute more effectively to the common search of those who do not want to suffer a fate but choose to work on the major questions of today. This message for 2023 wants to identify ways to renew Christian life in our time.
“Pray and do what is right”. Such was, in the terrible years of the Second World War, the intuition of pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1). He reflected in his prison on the essentials of Christian life. In the midst of the tragedy of war, he stood up. In the night of his time, he saw clearly:
Our Christian existence today will consist of only two attitudes: praying and doing what is right among humans. Everything we think, discuss and organize in the practice of Christianity must be reborn from this prayer and action. (2)
How to translate this intuition today? Everyone could give their own answer. In Taizé, we would say: to deepen our inner life and solidarity in our lives, or even: to nourish our life of prayer and broaden our friendships…
To discover in our lives the signs of the presence of God, the testimony of Dietrich Bonhoeffer can help us. He was very aware of the absolute evil at work in his time, and yet an inner impulse allowed him to opt, like so many others until today in situations of extreme violence, for hope. , for trust in God, without despairing of humanity.
In the current circumstances, we can, in turn, choose trust. We are free to discern, within our world, a light that comes from elsewhere. Even when we are going through a trial, even when God seems not to answer our cry, this light is already rising like the morning star in our hearts (2 Peter 1,19).
OPT FOR TRUST
Today, when heavy burdens weigh on the younger generation, and not only on them, what could transform our outlook and awaken our creativity? Of course, there are many reasons to feel deep anxiety, which can mark our view of the world and the way we look at ourselves. Some even come to wonder about God and his presence in the world.
Worry is an understandable reaction. It is even salutary when it stimulates us to see and understand, without naivety but with lucidity, the perils that threaten us. However, let us be careful not to give in to fatalism, cynicism or fear, which risk locking us into a negative spiral.
In order not to enter into such an impasse, the Gospel gives us an orientation by showing us Christ Jesus. He is ahead of us. Throughout his life, he knew joy, but also anxiety. He suffered growing hostility to the extreme violence of the cross. Death did not have the last word, however, because God raised him and he is alive forever. Therein lies the unheard of in the Gospel. Its first witnesses invite us to take the risk of trusting this message.
Today, Christ continues to accompany every human being, to communicate God’s limitless love to everyone. Through the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, he enables us to stand upright and confers on every person an irreducible dignity.
So let’s not let ourselves be impressed only by what comes to us from outside, but let’s also welcome this interior light, this confidence which is called faith.
SEEK RESOURCE IN PRAYER
To welcome a new perspective on our life, on others and on the world, a personal approach is necessary. It takes place in the most intimate part of ourselves, when we receive the benevolent presence of God in our lives. It is an interior reversal, which the Gospel also calls conversion, which leads us to accept God’s consolation, and to love ever more.
All of us can look for places and times to experience such interior silence, to open a space of listening, and to discover a communion with God. Jesus was already inviting his friends there: “When you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is there, in that secret place” (Matthew 6:6).
This call today seems somewhat against the grain. We are going through a period of heightened polarizations and deepening divisions in our societies, and sometimes even in churches and families. In this context, it is rather the noise or the lies that outweigh the silence of the long inner maturations.
Prayer is then even more essential: it is a source of hope, a path of appeasement, it enables us to keep the doors of dialogue open, even with those who oppose us or who come from horizons other than us.
JOURNEY WITH OTHERS
To personal prayer is added another call, that of journeying together with others, in view of this universal fraternity whose signs we seek to discern. The interior life is not an aspiration pursued in isolation, but it is prolonged in a common process carried out with those who share the same search.
Let’s start by increasing the visible unity of Christians! Certainly not to be stronger in the face of a hostile world, but to release the dynamics of the Gospel. It is not necessary to wait for all the theological questions to be harmonized to find ourselves in a common prayer.
When we come together among Christians of different denominations, we sometimes become aware of positions that seem incompatible, and indeed they can be, at least conceptually. Instead of putting them forward, another approach is possible: start and always start again by praying together. It is such a practice of unity that will enable the people of God to move forward towards a common confession of faith.
Perhaps this will also allow us to change our view of the Church: could we consider her ever more as the great family of those who choose to love in the footsteps of Christ? To be a ferment of peace, let’s stop maintaining divisions between us, by staying on parallel tracks that never meet!
This search for visible unity must go hand in hand with the recognition of the evil that has also been done in our churches and with a firm commitment to bring about the necessary changes. Many people have had their trust broken. In Taizé too, the trust of some has been betrayed, we are well aware of that. Trust is a fragile reality that always needs to be renewed and rebuilt, which is possible only through listening to those who have been hurt (3).
EXPAND OUR FRIENDSHIPS
In order to contribute to a universal brotherhood, the Church is invited to be a sign of the coming reign of God and to discover what the Holy Spirit is calling her to today. Here are some of these calls, to be explored together with others.
Today, a sense of belonging becomes, for many, more essential in building their identity. Such belonging can however be strengthened, not in a conflictual opposition, but in respect and encounter. Yes, let’s look for the part of truth in the other – we will always come out of it stronger.
A place of mutual respect can be the dialogue between believers of different religions. In this dialogue, openness to others is possible when we ourselves are rooted in our own religious tradition, like a tree that needs deep roots to bear wide-open branches. Authentic friendship is possible, even if it includes some pain since the other cannot share all of our deepest convictions.
Many are keenly aware of the extent to which racism and discrimination of all kinds weigh on interpersonal relationships and on so many societies. Let’s look together for what can help us change our outlook on others, for example by listening to those who have left their country of origin… Let’s accept the part of otherness that makes each encounter rich .
Do we hear the cry of the earth enough? So often, our human activities and negligence damage our wonderful planet, as the environmental disasters and extreme climatic phenomena that have multiplied in recent times remind us. It is urgent to remember the responsibility entrusted by God to humanity. Political and economic decisions are needed. But all of us can already simplify our lifestyles and renew a sense of wonder at the beauty of creation.
In the context of the war that strikes the soil of Ukraine and so many other places in the world, some find it difficult to pray, as if God were absent or silent in the face of evil. And yet, by praying for peace, it is also our sense of responsibility and our solidarity which are awakened, towards all those who suffer terribly from the tragedy of war. It is not a question of asking for an easy peace which gives victory to the aggressor, but indeed the true and demanding peace which must, to be lasting, go hand in hand with justice and truth. Yes, praying for peace is more urgent than ever.
To those of us who are believers, trust in God can give hope that is stronger than fear of the future. Not a naive confidence, but the conviction, to anchor in our hearts, that God is at work in his creation, and that he calls us to be at work in our turn, by assuming our responsibility for ourselves- themselves… and for the next generation.
When peace seems an inaccessible ideal and violence tears the family of nations apart, when perils of all kinds shake us, let us repeat it: in an interior life, even when very poor, through solidarity with our neighbor and a friendship that expands ever more, the risen Christ comes to meet us. It changes our outlook, it takes us to the open sea, and it invites us to unexpected overtaking. Will we be able to welcome it?
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