The traditional Christian view is that the original human fall from grace colors our futile efforts to keep ourselves in virtue. Saint Paul wrote of his own frustrations and his observation of believers he evangelized and served in communities across the ancient world. Even Christians enlivened by their relationship with Christ, filled with the Spirit, and many of them praised for their growth as believers–these people still showed the effects of sin. Clearly baptism, grace, and faith were insufficient when considering the human tendency for error, fault, and sin. Still, Jesus knows us well and offers us his hand. His offer of reconciliation is free gift.
Sacred Scripture speaks to us of this reconciliation, inviting us to make every effort to attain it. (“We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God”: 2 Cor 5:20.) But Scripture also tells us that it is above all a merciful gift of God to humanity. (“We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation”: Rom 5:11; cf Col 1:20.) The history of salvation-the salvation of the whole of humanity as well as of every human being of whatever period-is the wonderful history of a reconciliation: the reconciliation whereby God, as Father, in the blood and the cross of his Son made man, reconciles the world to himself and thus brings into being a new family of those who have been reconciled.
Looking at reconciliation, we need to consider the basic movement in a person from non-belief to belief. Pope John Paul II introduces the notion of conversion:
Reconciliation becomes necessary because there has been the break of sin from which derive all the other forms of break within (us) and about (us). Reconciliation, therefore, in order to be complete necessarily requires liberation from sin, which is to be rejected in its deepest roots. Thus a close internal link unites conversion and reconciliation. It is impossible to split these two realities or to speak of one and say nothing of the other.
And an important clarification here: rightly speaking, conversion involves not religious practice or allegiance. The human being is converted to Christ. Not to any particular church, denomination, or locality. Tomorrow we continue with the extensive introduction to this apostolic exhortation, which is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.