Trust in God’s love was at the heart of Brother Roger’s life

This week we remember Brother Roger, who was killed here in the Church of Reconciliation on August 16 eleven years ago. I want to tell you so many things about his life. But where to start?

Our community remains marked by him. For it, he wanted a minimum of structures. He wanted us to be first of all like a family, not an institution, and for our life to be based primarily on mutual concern and brotherly love.

If we welcome refugees—today from Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria—Brother Roger already did that. Shortly after arriving in Taizé when he was 25, in 1940, at the beginning of World War II, he sheltered people who were fleeing, among them Jews. And throughout his life he continued to do this.

He loved to sing. If our community prayer has become increasingly a sung prayer in which all can participate, around a few central words of our faith, this really is due to him. "Sing until you are joyful and serene," he said.

He wanted a long time of silence during prayer. The reasons are a bit mysterious. He was acutely aware that our words remain poor in front of God, but our presence is already a prayer, yes, we also pray with our bodies. He reassured everyone: even if your prayer is poor, God will listen to you. It is important first of all to welcome his love.

He liked the time of prayer that lasts in the evening, with singing. During that time, he listened personally to all those who entrusted to him their suffering, a question or their joy.

Through this listening he was able to allow trust to be born or reborn in countless people. To us brothers, he often said: "Do not give advice; listen." He took every person seriously; he gave them so to speak a place in his own life.

There is so much suffering, so many questions with no human answer, illness, disability, poverty, abandonment, the death of a loved one. There are visible wounds and hidden wounds. There is doubt that leads people to say: what is the meaning and value of my life? And there is the humiliation that wreaks havoc in personal life, already in children, the humiliation of entire peoples that goes to the point of creating conflicts and wars.

Brother Roger was convinced that these injuries had to be healed at their roots. He suffered with people and longed for God’s love to touch them.

Yes, trust in God’s love was at the heart of his life. But we must realize that this involved an inner struggle for him, he had to, as he put it, "set out a thousand times in life" on this path of trust.

"All God can do is give his love": these words of a believer of the seventh century expressed for Brother Roger the center of our faith; that is why he asked that they be made into a song.

This love of God is compassion; it is mercy. This means: God loves you now, at this moment, just as you are. Through Jesus Christ he suffers with you and by the Holy Spirit he renews in you the hope of resurrection.

God does not give his love by parts; he does not give more to one and less to another; he pours all his love into you. Living in that trust is a risk. There are many arguments that threaten it.

To take the risk of trust we need to be supported by others. Brother Roger’s memory can provide such support. You also know other people on whom you rely. And for all of us there are Christians who have gone before us, beginning with the apostles and the Virgin Mary.

Last Monday we celebrated the memory of the Virgin Mary. What a joy to think of her! When she was till very young, she ran the risk of trusting. She believed that her child was the Messiah. But she had to accept that Jesus was different than what she and the people were waiting for: Jesus was a poor messiah.

Mary had to understand that Christ did not bring paradise to earth externally. By his life and death he wanted to bring God’s love into the greatest darkness, into violence, humiliation and death. And God raised him from the dead. Death and hatred no longer have the last word.

Since his resurrection Christ invisibly accompanies every human being, as is shown in the icon that we have placed in the front of the church. It was Brother Roger’s favorite icon; he called it "the icon of friendship." Even without our being aware of it, Christ Jesus is present; he opens a path of life for his friend.

Saturday night we will have a little festival. During the prayer we will welcome a new brother into the community, Raphael. He comes from Ticino in Switzerland. He stayed with us as a volunteer for over a year. Now he will prepare himself to commit his life to follow Christ in our community.

I talked a lot to you about Brother Roger, some of his gifts. I would add that he was very conscious of being "one of God’s poor," as he used to say. He was extremely sensitive and vulnerable. But as the prior of the Grande Chartreuse wrote after his death: "He cultivated vulnerability as a door through which God can preferentially come to be with us."

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Jean Vanier for his presence among us.

Jean Vanier founded the Arche communities where people with disabilities and people without disabilities live together and find in this life together mutual support to build trust. We need each other, those who are weak and those who are strong. Jean Vanier will speak tomorrow afternoon in a workshop.

Margaux will now mention the countries represented here and the children will distribute flowers to all. The first flower is for Jean Vanier. We feel in deep communion with him.

Margaux: There are flowers for those from Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Afghanistan, India, Syria, Iraq and Israel.

For those from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico.

For those from Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark.

For those from Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Britain and Ireland.

For those from Ukraine, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Switzerland and France.

For those from Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

For those from Australia and the United States.

For those from South Africa, Mauritius, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Chad, Benin, Senegal, Sudan and Egypt.

Let us now sing the words of Saint Augustine, "Jesus Christ, inner light, do not let my darkness speak to me, Jesus, Christ, inner light, enable me to welcome your love." This is a song that was important for Brother Roger. If in all of us, and around us in the world, there are shadows, inner contradictions, injuries, and unresolved issues, we can still, at this very moment, already welcome Christ’s love.

Printed from: - 26 January 2020
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