Attentive to the presence of God in our lives

Tuesday February 25, 2020 | Taizé, Church of Reconciliation

It is a great joy for us brothers to see so many of you gathered here this week. Already, during the past two weeks, the French have come in large numbers to the hill. And now more than 2000 of you have come from Portugal and others from elsewhere. Welcome, everyone!

This morning we heard a very powerful story, which comes from the first part of the Bible (1 Kings 19). It describes an important moment in the life of the prophet Elijah. After fighting and committing violence in the name of his God, Elijah realizes that his life is meaningless. He is completely discouraged and he thinks he is dying.

But the Lord visited him, encouraged him to get back on the road and gave him strength. It is then that an extraordinary meeting takes place. Hidden in a cave, Elijah is waiting. Then there is a strong wind, but God is not in the storm. An earthquake occurs, but God is not there. And another fire, but God is not there either.

Finally, when the great noise stops, Elijah hears the “sound of a gentle breeze”, and then he understands that it is God who is passing by. He veils his face and prostrates himself to the ground.

This story helps us to understand that God does not come through manifestations of power and violence. Whereas Elijah expects to recognize the presence of God in spectacular events, such as fire, storm or earthquake, God reveals his presence to him in quite a different way.

In turn, could we strive to recognize the often hidden signs of God’s presence in our lives and in the world? Some days, his presence can be discovered in a kind of breath of silence. So we have to be attentive to be able to hear it.

Tomorrow Lent begins. It is a time that the Church offers us to make us more attentive to the presence of God in our lives.

Yes, during Lent we would like to prepare to celebrate the great feast of Easter. Christ has overcome evil, and his constant forgiveness allows us to renew an inner life. We are invited to a conversion: not to withdraw into ourselves in introspection or individual perfectionism, but to seek a communion with God and also a communion with others.

To mark this entry into Lent, we will have two signs during the common prayer. The first sign is that of ashes. During the morning prayer, the brothers will make a cross with ashes on the forehead of all those who wish. When they give the ashes, the brothers will say to each one: “Turn to God and trust in his love.” This is a very old gesture, which calls us to humility and helps us to accept the fragility of our existences.

The second sign is a liturgical gesture that comes to us from the Orthodox tradition. During the evening prayer, those who wish can receive an anointing with oil on their forehead. While tracing the sign of the cross, the brothers will say to each one: “Here is the anointing of healing, the anointing of festival.”

Today, one of the paths that promote joy is undoubtedly the choice to share what we have, to live in simplicity. Yes, freely chosen simplicity makes it possible to resist the race for what is superfluous. Choosing simplicity also opens our hearts to sharing and to the joy that comes from God.

During this time of Lent, let us dare to revise our lifestyle, not to give a bad conscience to those who would do less, but with a view to solidarity with the destitute and with all of Creation, that we are called to protect and preserve.

Tomorrow morning, the ashes and the oil we will receive are two symbols that invite us to forgive and to celebrate. May this Lent be a time of joy for each and every one of us. The joy of forgiveness, the joy of sharing.

Last updated: 26 February 2020