Since the pandemic, “tracing”, the process of identifying and monitoring people exposed to the virus, has become famous. Once located, they were followed for a number of days. The aim was to stop the transmission of the virus by reducing the number of infected people circulating in the population.
“Tracking” is a term also widely used in ethology – the science that studies animal behaviour. Tracking is, for example, trying to find out the presence of certain animals from the signals they leave behind. More than a hunting technique, tracking is an art, a way of paying attention. It requires developing, in addition to the sense of smell, the eye for the invisible, the mind and the imagination.
Today, tracking gets a very bad press when it is used by the media or by security forces. It is an undue invasion of other people’s privacy through sophisticated technologies available to the powerful. It thus becomes a lethal weapon of power. Constant observation of an individual or group, coupled with the accumulation of information, exposes their patterns of behaviour, habits and preferences. It makes them vulnerable and bribable.
Tracking also resonates in the religious world, but in a different way. It is the attempt to detect the presence of the invisible God in the world. A believer, rather than a seer, is a “God-tracker”. Jesus himself clearly alludes to the blurred character of the divine when he affirms that “no one has ever seen God” (Jn 1:18). Acknowledging his existence, he underlines the human inability to see him.
However, even if we often search for God in the mists of time and do not have the appropriate sensors to recognise him, we have a great help: the experience of those who have gone before us in faith. They are people who populate the Bible and the history of the Church. They began quests not so different from ours, they completed them and we learn from them.
God also shows himself in signs that we call “signs of the times”. They are neither evidence nor necessarily great historical events, but mostly small events. Understanding how God “hides” there requires discernment: the training to interpret them correctly. Jesus warned: “Look at the fig tree and all the other trees. When you see them budding, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near” (Lk 22:29-31).
We cannot forget that the great mark that God has left is his own Son. He is the visible sign of the invisible God. Jesus leads us directly to him. Therefore, following in his footsteps is a guarantee of following in God’s sure footsteps.
Juan Carlos cmf
(PHOTO: Alexandre Debiève)