Brother Alois

2008 Letter from Cochabamba

Prepared for months with the parishes and families of the city and its surroundings, a Latin American young adult meeting was held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, from October 10-14, 2007. It brought together 7000 participants from the different regions of Bolivia, from all the countries of Latin America and from several European countries. This “Letter from Cochabamba” for the year 2008 was first distributed during the European meeting in Geneva at the end of December 2007.

Reconciliation, a fire

Together in Bolivia with young people from all the countries of Latin America, we have been asking ourselves: what paths of hope can we open today?
The Bolivian people, with their enormous social and ethnic diversity, are trying to leave conflicts behind and head towards greater justice and peace.

In many places on earth, current tensions arise from the still festering wounds of history. Where can healing be found at a time when a feeling of powerlessness in the face of injustices is gaining ground?

The young people meeting in Cochabamba have shown that diversity, instead of leading inevitably to divisions or rivalries, bears within it the promise of mutual enrichment and joy. [1]

In Bolivia, we have discovered courageous believers expressing by the whole of their lives the Gospel’s call to struggle with a reconciled heart.

At the springs of reconciliation

We draw the energies needed to struggle with a reconciled heart from a personal communion with the living God. Without an inner life, we could not fully carry out our resolve. In God we find joy; we find hope for a life lived to the full.

Has not God himself taken the first step towards us? By the coming of Jesus, God commits himself to a true exchange with every human being. While remaining beyond anything we can understand, God becomes someone very close.

Out of love, God wanted to share our existence. He became a human being. Still more: by giving his life on the cross, Jesus chose the last place. [2] Taking upon himself what separates us from God, he assumes our own being and all humanity. [3] He communicates his own life to us in return. [4] In that way the whole of creation already begins to be transfigured. [5]

This exchange with God becomes real for us in prayer: by his Holy Spirit, God comes to dwell within us. By his word and by the sacraments, Christ gives himself to us. In return, we can surrender everything to him. [6]

Is this not how Christ brought fire on the earth, that fire that is already burning within us?

Widening our friendship to include all

We cannot hold the fire of reconciliation in. It sheds light on a road where we are led to be peacemakers both close at hand and far away. [7]

If we realize what God is doing for us, our mutual relations will be transformed by it. We will be capable of an authentic communion with others, an exchange of life in which we give and receive.

The Gospel invites us to take the first step towards others, with no assurance in advance that they will respond.

In some situations, particularly in broken relationships, ­reconciliation can seem unattainable. We should then be aware that a desire for reconciliation is already the beginning of it. Christ takes upon himself what seems to lead nowhere and we can entrust to him all that needs healing. That prepares us to seize the opportunities that arise and to take a step, however small, towards easing tensions.

Reconciliation can transform our societies in depth. The Spirit of the risen Christ renews the face of the earth. Let us allow this dynamism of the resurrection to propel us forward! Let us not be discouraged by the complexity of the problems we face. Let us not forget that we can begin with very little. [8]

The communion of the Church supports us; it is a place of friendship for all. [9] “For us the Church is like a mother who listens to her children. She welcomes; she comforts.” [10] These words of a young Latin American challenge us: will we find ways to let God’s compassion shine through us?

In situations of conflict, will we find ways of listening to others? So many separations would be less painful then. [11] Let us strive to put ourselves in the place of others.

Will we find ways of ensuring a fairer sharing of resources? Let us dare to revise our life-style in the direction of greater simplicity, solidarity with the destitute and increased care for Creation.

Will we be close to those who are poorer than we are? By sharing with them, an exchange of life occurs: they lead us to be generous and so bring us out of ourselves. Still more, their indigence helps us to accept our own vulnerability. By this commitment we will contribute to having the dignity of every human being respected.

Will we go to the point of forgiving? Is there any other way to interrupt the chain of ongoing humiliation? [12] It is not a matter of forgetting a painful past, or of being blind to present-day situations of injustice. The Gospel calls us to go beyond the memory of wounds by forgiving, and even to rise above our expectation of getting something in return. In this way we find the freedom of the children of God.

Yes, we want to struggle with a reconciled heart, to be passionate seekers for communion, able to widen our friendship to include all.

[1When the young people from rural areas arrived in Cochabamba wearing their traditional dress, it was a festival of colours! What joy to see that young people from all the regions of Bolivia could be together: those from the plain and those from the mountains, those from the city and those from the countryside. This meeting showed that young people can contribute, by their way of life, to the emergence of “microclimates of reconciliation.” For the Gospel truly to be a force for reconciliation in Bolivia, a growing number of Christians are attempting, in announcing the faith, to take the traditional cultural and religious background more into account.

[2For Saint Paul, the reconciliation accomplished by Christ concerns the whole of creation. He was sent to “reconcile all things on earth and in the heavens” (Colossians 1:20). For that, “Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be clung to, but emptied himself, taking the condition of a slave and becoming like human beings” (Philippians 2:5-11).

[3In a poetic language that draws its inspiration from meditation on Scripture, the Orthodox liturgy sings at Christmas: “The Creator, seeing that the man whom his hands had fashioned was lost, comes down by bending the heavens; born of the holy, immaculate virgin, he assumes the whole human being in his body.”

[4A second-century Christian, Irenaeus of Lyons, went so far as to say: “On account of his infinite love, Christ became what we are, to make us fully what he is.”

[5The Holy Spirit is like the soul of Creation: “The beauty which the world displays is maintained by the invigorating power of the Spirit…. The Spirit is diffused over all space, sustaining, invigorating, and quickening all things, both in heaven and on the earth.” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion I, XIII, 14).

[6Communion with God is not always experienced on the level of feelings; the presence of the Holy Spirit in us is deeper. Even without feeling anything we can pray, perhaps by a simple gesture: kneeling down, opening our hands. And already God comes to visit us.

[7Christ sends into the world those he draws to himself. See Mark 1:17.

[8See Luke 10:1-16.

[9Roxana, a young Bolivian woman, expressed the role that the Church has tried to play to help reduce the powerful social tensions that have recently troubled Bolivia: “What provokes the protest, rage and malaise of a people? A lack of love? The powerlessness felt by those who know that their voice is not being listened to? When you want to share the suffering of a people, you feel the need to approach more closely the hope that comes from God. And so, the doors of the churches were opened for continuous prayer; the bells rang to invite people from the different neighbourhoods to information meetings. Young people discovered the power of unity, solidarity and friendship. We young people are the living blood of the Church; our participation and our energy are indispensable.”

[10“God says: Can a woman forget her baby; is she without compassion for the fruit of her womb? Even if she were to forget, I would never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).

[11Listening to one another is equally necessary in personal relationships and in society as a whole, and even in international relations between peoples and continents.

[12One of the surprises of the meeting in Cochabamba was the presence of so many young Chileans, given the antagonistic relationship between these two neighbouring countries. On the last day of the meeting, the young Chileans wanted to express then and there a gesture of reconciliation to the young Bolivians by presenting to them, in an open letter, a request for forgiveness for all past and present conflicts.

Printed from: - 17 July 2024
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