Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 26: Catechesis, Part 2: Catechesis on Reconciliation

Catechetical considerations continue:

From the pastors of the church one expects, first of all, catechesis on reconciliation. This must be founded on the teaching of the Bible, especially the New Testament, on the need to rebuild the covenant with God in Christ the redeemer and reconciler. And in the light of this new communion and friendship, and as an extension of it, it must be founded on the teaching concerning the need to be reconciled with one’s (sisters and brothers), even if this means interrupting the offering of the sacrifice.(Cf Matthew 5:23f)

This is a very interesting citation. Over the past half-century, some Catholics have wrung hands on the Sign of Peace at Mass, some advocating moving it, others viewing it as optional, and some even wishing it were to vanish. I suspect there is an important inspiration behind it. I mean: not only its inclusion, but also Catholics fussing about it. All of that is illustrative of our difficulty with reconciliation. Clearly, Pope John Paul II had no issue with interrupting Mass just before the Communion procession. Perhaps we shouldn’t either.

More from the Sermon on the Mount:

Jesus strongly insists on this theme of (familial) reconciliation: for example, when he invites us to turn the other cheek to the one who strikes us, and to give our cloak too to the one who has taken our coat,(Cf ibid., 5:38-40) or when he instills the law of forgiveness: forgiveness which each one receives in the measure that he or she foresee forgiveness to be offered even to enemies,(Cf ibid., 5:43ff) forgiveness to be granted seventy times seven times,(Cf ibid., 18:21f) which means in practice without any limit.

I’d add that reconciliation must always be a consideration, especially where we don’t think it is needed. What better time to practice and master it than when we reconcile over small and modest issues among loved ones?

On these conditions, which are realizable only in a genuinely evangelical climate, it is possible to have a true reconciliation between individuals, families, communities, nations and peoples. From these biblical data on reconciliation there will naturally derive a theological catechesis, which in its synthesis will also integrate the elements of psychology, sociology and the other human sciences which can serve to clarify situations, describe problems accurately and persuade listeners or readers to make concrete resolutions.

While I’m not willing to denigrate theology, I think reconciliation is above all a spiritual and humanistic value. It isn’t limited to Christianity. Jesus’ teaching on it suggests the Christian way is to go far deeper than our dainty self-centeredness would allow. It is also a spiritual value, as it forms us for a life beyond this world. It is a way of living shared with those we know, as well as with strangers. Theology is important, but I see it as a third-best priority.

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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