DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     September 27, 1999     vol. 10, no. 183


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          Today, we bring you the audience from His Holiness Pope John Paul II from last Wednesday September 22 during his weekly Wednesday Papal Audience at St. Peter's Square where the Holy Father continued on his theme of reconciliation in preparation for the new millennium with his treatise RECONCILIATION WITH GOD AND OTHERS, emphasizing the nature and necessity of seeking pardon. The full English text was provided by ZENIT news agency, article ZE99092220.


Papal Audience Address from Wednesday, September 22, 1999

        On this past Wednesday, the Holy Father addressed over 15,000 in St. Peter's Square, continuing his theme of reconciliation for the Jubilee Year 2000 on the importance of "pardon and peace" - pardon from God and peace with others through reconciliation with our brothers and sisters. The Pope points out this charge the Church has always carried out through the Sacrament of Penance and the communitarian nature of forgiveness in being accepted back into the full graces of God and His community on earth.

    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)

September 27, 1999       volume 10, no. 183


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