Pastoral Thought



            Today we hear how the Risen Christ’s very first words to his own were “Peace be with you.” These are words of reconciliation—No More Separation. No more guilt! No more persons who are failed, lost or dead! So the most graphic way to characterize the Resurrection is “Your sins are forgiven.” So we call today Divine Mercy Sunday. Christ, the New Adam, has given the human race a new beginning not by blotting out the past but by transforming it.

            The Church recognizes today’s gospel event as the institution of the sacraments of forgiveness:  first Baptism then Reconciliation. I would like to emphasize that this gift is not limited to the rituals that we can “Baptism” or “Confession.” It flows out beyond them. As St. Paul says “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.” It embraces the entire human race.

            Clearly the human race is not fully reconciled, one person to another, or community to community. There are wonderful examples of human solidarity and caring everywhere, yet it is equally clear that “Man acts as a wolf toward his fellow man.” Pride, greed, envy, the incessant commodification of human sexual attraction, the use of religion to condemn or actively harm others, the tendency to lose all concern and care for fellow humans and focus on benefitting oneself—all this goes on in individuals and nations.

            Reconciliation was Christ’s gift to the Church for the sake of the whole human race. The world needs to learn mercy, repentance, conversion. These are possible only by divine grace. We believe that they Holy Spirit works beyond the visible bonds of the Church to give this grace. But people can only accept this grace to the degree that they seek God. We, the disciples of Jesus, have a mission beyond the confines of sacramental ritual.

            We are to make God’s mercy known in society. How can the Church extend the grace of reconciliation throughout human society? The great issues of social justice cry out for an answer. We are being asked.

Father John Hynes