Ascension 2017 / Meditation by Brother Alois

Let us set off toward new horizons


We are very numerous this weekend on the hill of Taizé. At this same moment, some brothers are in the United States, in St Louis, for a meeting for young Americans. We would like to greet the participants of this weekend meeting, which is being held in a city marked by recent serious tensions between different communities, but where there are also people seeking peace and reconcilation. The meeting will finish with a "Walk of Trust" throughout the city. We want to express how close we feel to them.

All of us were shocked by the terrorist attack that occurred on Monday night in Manchester, especially since it targeted children and teenagers.

For my part, I was particularly struck because I was then in Berlin, for a meeting about the role of religions for peace. The meeting was organized by the German Minister of Foreign Affairs and brought together about 100 leaders from different religions, Jews, Muslims, Christians, from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

It was a matter of indicating that religions are not a source of violence, but that they offer a potential for fraternity. It was a sign of hope that manifested itself at the very moment of a tragic event.

As today violence takes such brutal forms, it is essential to multiply signs of fraternity among the different religions. Three weeks ago, we had here in Taizé for the first time a meeting of Islamic-Christian friendship, with three hundred young Christians and Muslims who discovered each other and created many bonds of friendship.

In September, a few of us brothers will go with a hundred young Europeans to undertake a few days’ pilgrimage in Egypt. We will meet a hundred or so young Egyptians there. We will seek to better understand the Coptic Christians of this country, who live in a Muslim context. Such signs of friendship are fundamental.

Today, Ascension Day, we celebrate an event that is not immediately accessible to the modern mentality. With the images available at the time, the Bible tells how Jesus, forty days after his resurrection, is taken up to heaven. Here, on the right-hand side of the Church, a small stained-glass window tries to show something that our imagination cannot represent.

After the death of Jesus the disciples are passing through moments of anxiety; they are disoriented. It is only gradually that they will begin to believe that Jesus is really risen. And little by little they are going to accept that Jesus will henceforth be with them otherwise, in an invisible way.

On the day of the Ascension, Jesus makes it clear to his disciples, and to us also, that he never leaves us alone, but that he is present invisibly through his Holy Spirit, the power from on high that he will send.

As he is leaving, Jesus says to his disciples, "You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.” It is as if he were telling us too: now it is up to you to transmit my love in the world; the strength of the Holy Spirit will give you the necessary courage.

Like the disciples of Jesus, sometimes we will have to set off toward new horizons, far or nearby, to communicate the hope of the gospel.

On the day of the Ascension, we pray that the hope of the resurrection will extend to all humanity. Jesus overcame death. He lives with God and accompanies each of us. Suffering, sickness, hatred and violence do not have the last word.

Tonight, I would like to tell you something else. Tomorrow I will leave for Germany, and on Saturday morning several other brothers will join me. We will participate in the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in Berlin and then in Wittenberg, the city of Martin Luther.

We were glad to be invited because we will be gathered, not to celebrate a division between Christians, but to celebrate Christ together, following all those who have witnessed to him throughout history, among whom Martin Luther has a special place.

On Saturday evening, in Wittenberg, we will lead an open-air prayer and remind those who will be there that the Gospel carries a message of universal fraternity and that many young people dream of Christians being united in order not to obscure this message by their divisions.

Then once again, I will ask the question I have often asked: should not the separated churches dare to place themselves under one roof without waiting, even before an agreement is reached on all theological questions? Let us dare to anticipate unity by often meeting together, especially in vigils of prayer.

I will make a very simple suggestion. The young Swedes who are here remember that last year Pope Francis visited their country and he prayed with these words, never before expressed by a pope: "Holy Spirit, grant us to acknowledge with joy the gifts which have come to the Church through the Reformation."

So this is my proposal: Do not these words of the pope call for a response? Would not his openness to the gifts of the Reformation be an opportunity to express in return a prayer of gratitude for all that the Protestant Churches receive from the Catholic Church?

I will finish. There are many young people here from Germany, Switzerland and France. At the end of this year, the European meeting will be welcomed in your three countries because, in the region of Basel, the three countries touch. In Basel we shall seek to continue along the path of reconciliation of which I have just spoken.

Cris: There are flowers for the young people from Korea, China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Syria and Iraq.

For those of Australia, the United States and Canada.

For those of Russia, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark.

For those of Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium and Great Britain.

For those of Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia, Austria, Switzerland and France.

For those of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

For those of South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Eritrea, Senegal, Madagascar and Egypt.

For those of Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

Last updated: 26 May 2017