Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 8: The Reconciling Church, Part 3

Regarding The Reconciling Church, there’s still more to say. First, that the Church, while concerned with conversion isn’t about membership to the exclusion of other considerations. Pope John Paul II suggested we have a role to play beyond the fold. If he is correct, we have some skeptics because we don’t always make ourselves available to effect unity within torn families or neighborhoods or among nations at war. Lots of preaching, though.

In intimate connection with Christ’s mission, one can therefore sum up the church’s mission, rich and complex as it is, as being her central task of reconciling people: with God, with themselves, with neighbor, with the whole of creation; and this in a permanent manner since, as I said on another occasion, “the church is also by her nature always reconciling.” (“The church is also by her nature always reconciling, handing on to others the gift that she herself has received, the gift of having been forgiven and made one with God”: Pope John Paul II, Homily at Liverpool, May 30, 1982)

Conversion of heart gets a mention. Is that always, of necessity conversion to Christ? Or are there other conversions?

The church is reconciling inasmuch as she proclaims the message of reconciliation as she has always done throughout her history, from the apostolic Council of Jerusalem (Cf Acts 15:2-33) down to the latest synod and the recent jubilee of the redemption. The originality of this proclamation is in the fact that for the church reconciliation is closely linked with conversion of heart: This is the necessary path to understanding among human beings.

At times, the Church’s witness to this is impaired. Perhaps we need a recognition that reconciliation is a way to live, and not just a juridical/sacramental procedure.

The church is also reconciling inasmuch as she shows (people) the paths and offers the means for reaching this fourfold reconciliation. The paths are precisely those of conversion of heart and victory over sin, whether this latter is selfishness or injustice, arrogance or exploitation of others, attachment to material goods or the unrestrained quest for pleasure. The means are those of faithful and loving attention to God’s word; personal and community prayer; and in particular the sacraments, true signs and instruments of reconciliation, among which there excels, precisely under this aspect, the one which we are rightly accustomed to call the sacrament of reconciliation or penance and to which we shall return later on.

What would help us? The recognition that for a reconciling Church, we are committed to living it, not just preaching it. That when we recognize rifts, we take initiative, even when it suggests we are at fault. Or when it seems we are not.

This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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