Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ministers of Reconciliation

In his second letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul wrote that God “has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:19)

As Catholics, when we think of a ministry of reconciliation, we naturally think of sacramental confession, in which a penitent sinner confesses his transgressions to a priest who acts in the person of Christ to give absolution for the sins, thus reconciling the wayward soul with God. The reconciliation that takes place is the repairing of the relationship between the individual and God that was damaged by that person’s sins. Since the priest who hears the sins is acting in persona Christi, it can truly be said that he is an “ambassador for Christ” (2 Cor 5:20). However, this sacramental ministry can only be exercised by ordained priests authorized by their bishops to act as confessors. Where does that leave the rest of us?

The word reconcile (at least in English – I have no idea regarding the various forms of the Greek word) has more than one meaning. When I balance my checkbook, I am reconciling my record of transactions with that of the bank, so that they are in agreement. I might have to make adjustments to my entries, because I made an erroneous entry or failed to record something. Corrections might be needed in order to make the ledgers balance, and sometimes I find that I need to make an urgent transfer of funds to prevent an overdraw. When God reconciled us to himself through Christ, the ledgers were way out of balance, and mankind was already way overdrawn.

Once I balance my checkbook, though, it doesn’t stay balanced on its own. I have to maintain it, taking care to ensure that it stays in balance. That, I believe is where our ministry of reconciliation comes into play. (I know, the metaphor limps in so many ways, but no metaphor is perfect.) The Catholic Church teaches that it is the role of the laity to take Christian principles into the world to build a just and moral society. In other words, it is up to us to reconcile the world that is to the world that should be. That is our never-ending ministry and our mission.

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