Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Continuing our reflection on the Sacrament of Penance, today we want to delve into a dimension that intrinsically characterizes it: reconciliation. This aspect of the sacrament works as an antidote and medicine against the lacerating character proper to sin. In fact, by sinning man not only distances himself from God, but sows seeds of division within himself and in his relationships with his brothers and sisters. The return to God implies therefore a reintegration of the unity jeopardized by sin.
2. Reconciliation is a gift of the Father: He alone can bring it about. Therefore it represents first of all an appeal that comes from on high: "In the name of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:20). As Jesus explains to us in the parable of the Merciful Father (cf Lk 15:11-32), forgiveness and reconciliation to Himself are a celebration for Him. The Father, here as in other Gospel passages, not only offers forgiveness and reconciliation but at the same time shows how these gifts are sources of joy for everyone.
The link between divine paternity and the hearty joy of the banquet is significant in the New Testament. The reign of God is compared to a joyous banquet where it is the Father who does the inviting (cf Mt 8:11; 22:4; 26:29). The fulfillment of salvation history is again expressed with images of the feast prepared by God the Father for the marriage of the Lamb (cf Ap 19:6-9).
3. It is precisely in Christ, the spotless Lamb, offered for our sins (cf 1 Pt 1:19; Ap 5:6; 12:11) that the reconciliation that comes from the Father is concentrated. Jesus Christ is not only the One who reconciles, but Reconciliation itself. As St. Paul teaches, our becoming a new creature, renewed by the Spirit, "comes from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, God in Christ was reconciling the world to Himself, not holding men's faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled" (2 Cor 5:18-19).
Precisely through the mystery of the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ the drama of the division existing between man and God is overcome. With Easter, in fact , the mystery of the infinite mercy of the Father penetrates the darkest roots of the iniquity of human beings. There it effects a movement of grace which, if we accept it freely, causes us to relish the sweetness of full reconciliation.
Christ's abyss of pain and abandonment is in this way transformed into an inextinguishable source of compassionate and peacemaking love. The Redeemer redesigns a way of return to the Father that permits us to experience again the filial relationship that had been lost and confers on human beings the strength necessary to maintain this profound communion with God.
4. Unfortunately, there also exists in redeemed life the possibility of sinning again, and this requires a continual vigilance. Furthermore, even after being forgiven, the "residues of sin" remain, which can be removed and combated by a penitential program of stronger striving for good. It requires in the first place reparation of physical or moral wrongs done to groups or individuals. Thus conversion becomes a permanent way in which the mystery of reconciliation effected in the sacrament acts as both a point of arrival and point of departure.
The encounter with Christ Who forgives fosters in our hearts the dynamism of trinitarian love that the "Ordo Penitentiae" (Rite of Penance) describes as follows: "Through the sacrament of Penance the Father accepts the penitent son that returns to Him; Christ puts the lost sheep on His shoulders to bring him back to the fold, and the Holy Spirit re-sanctifies His temple or intensifies His presence in it; it signals the renewed and more fervent participation at the Table of the Lord, in the great joy of the banquet that the Church of God prepares to celebrate the return of the prodigal son." (N. 6; cf also NN. 5 and 19).
5. The "Rite of Penance" explains in the formula of absolution the link between pardon and peace, offered by God the Father in the Passover of his Son, and with the "mediation of the minister of the Church" (OP, 46). The Sacrament, while signifying and realizing the gift of reconciliation, makes evident that she does not only look to our relationship with God the Father, but also the relationship with our brothers. These two aspects of reconciliation are intimately connected. The reconciling action of Christ happens in the Church. She is not able to reconcile by herself but as a living instrument of the pardon of Christ, according to the precise mandate of the Lord (cf Jn 20:23; Mt 18:18). This reconciliation in Christ is realized in an outstanding way in the celebration of the sacrament of Penance. However, all of the intimate being of the Church in its communitarian dimension is characterized by the permanent habit of reconciliation.
A certain individualism in understanding reconciliation must be overcome: the entire Church cooperates in the conversion of sinners, through prayer, exhortation, fraternal correction, and the support of love. Without reconciliation among brothers, love does not take flesh in the individual. As sin tears the fabric of the Body of Christ, so reconciliation recreates solidarity between the members of the People of God.
6. The ancient practice of penance highlighted the communitarian-ecclesiastical aspect of reconciliation, in particular in the final moment of absolution by the Bishop with the readmission of the penitent to the community. The teaching of the Church and penitential discipline promulgated after the Second Vatican Council exhort us to rediscover and again honor the communitarian-ecclesiastical dimension of Reconciliation (cf LG, 11 and also SC, 27), while conserving the doctrine on the need for individual confession.
In the context of the Grand Jubilee of the Year 2000 it will be important to offer the people of God valid and up-to-date programs of reconciliation which bring about the rediscovery of the communitarian nature, not only of penance, but also of the Father's entire project of salvation for humanity. In this way the teaching of the Constitution "Lumen Gentium" will be realized: "God wanted to sanctify men, not individually and without any connection between them, but by making of them a people that would recognize Him in truth and piously serve Him" (N. 9). (Translation by ZENIT Staff)
On June 12, 1961 Pope John XXIII transferred him to the Diocese of San Rafael as the bishop there and on February 16, 1965 Pope Paul VI made him the Archbishop of Cordoba where he has remained for the past thirty-four years as he nears retirement. On March 5, 1973 he was elevated to the cardinalate during Paul VI's Consistory that year. He received the titular church of the Blessed Mary Sorrowful Virgin. Because of his concentration solely on his diocese over the past three decades he serves participation only in one curial office of the Roman Curia, as a member of the Sacred Congregation for Clergy to which he can add invaluable counsel from his many years of fostering priestly vocations.
Death of Pope Urban VII, 228th successor of Peter, whose pontificate lasted only 13 days. He was a virtuous and charitable man who undoubtedly would have aligned his government with the Tridentine decrees from the Council of Trent had he not died of malaria shortly after his election. He earmarked all his wealth for the works of charity.
Death of Saint Vincent de Paul. For more on this priest and religious founder, see DAILY LITURGY
Death of Pope Innocent XII, 242nd successor of Peter who ordered priests to wear the cassock everyday and to make retreats at regular intervals. France's King Louis XIV renounced the Gallican Proposals and Innocent agreed to recognize the bishops nominated by the king. Innocent died at age 85 after a pontificate lasting nine years.