Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 35: Concluding Expression of Hope, Part 1: The Biblical Witness of Peter

By a long road of reading and reflection, we have come to a Concluding Expression of Hope. To whom did the Holy Father turn for his initial inspiration? Would you have guessed Peter of the New Testament?

35. At the end of this document I hear echoing within me and I desire to repeat to all of you the exhortation which the first bishop of Rome, at a critical hour of the beginning of the church, addressed “to the exiles of the dispersion…chosen and destined by God the Father…: Have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the (sisters and brothers), a tender heart and a humble mind.”(Cf 1 Peter 1:1f; 3:8) The apostle urged: “Have unity of spirit.” But he immediately went on to point out the sins against harmony and peace which must be avoided: “Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing.” And he ended with a word of encouragement and hope: “Who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right?”(Ibid., 3:9, 13)

At an hour of history which is no less critical, I dare to join my exhortation to that of the prince of the apostles, the first to occupy this See of Rome as a witness to Christ and as pastor of the church, and who here “presided in charity” before the entire world.

I would agree that the times are critical. Every age is in need of mercy and reconciliation. Pastors are responsible for discerning clearly the moment’s biggest obstacles to sanctity. What would we say of today? Bearing false witness in a wide sense, certainly. To be sure, liars beset humankind in the 1980s, as they did in every age.

In communion with the bishops who are the successors of the apostles and supported by the collegial reflection that many of them, meeting in the synod, devoted to the topics and problems of reconciliation, I too wish to speak to you with the same spirit of the fisherman of Galilee when he said to our brothers and sisters in the faith, distant in time but so closely linked in heart: “Have unity of spirit…. Do not return evil for evil…. Be zealous for what is right.”(Ibid., 3:8, 9, 13) And he added: “It is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong.”(Ibid., 3:17)

Here, an important note on the Christian distinction offered in our approach to mercy, sin, and reconciliation. The bullet points are mine; the text original:

This exhortation is completely permeated by words which Peter had heard from Jesus himself and by ideas which formed part of his “good news”:

  • the new commandment of love of neighbor;
  • the yearning for and commitment to unity;
  • the beatitudes of mercy and patience in persecution for the sake of justice;
  • the repaying of evil with good;
  • the forgiveness of offenses;
  • the love of enemies.

In these words and ideas is the original and transcendent synthesis of the Christian ethic or, more accurately and more profoundly, of the spirituality of the new covenant in Jesus Christ.

Which of these is most needed today? In answering that question, consider the many situations in which a Christian of the twenty-first century finds herself or himself: in the world, in the community, in one’s family and amongst loved ones, in the solitude of one’s own heart.

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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