The Message of God's Reconciling Love

04-15-2018Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

In reading and listening to the scriptural passages this weekend, we discover that the risen Lord has given us a mission and this mission is one of reconciliation. Easter is the magnificent and great celebration of reconciliation. All things are made new, since everything is now reconciled to God in Jesus Christ the risen Lord. Because Christ's mission was essentially one of reconciliation, so is it the mission for all of us who die and rise with Christ and who seek to witness his life and words in our daily actions.

The Acts of the Apostles passage pays attention to the preaching of Peter. Realize this great and loud speaker is the exact same man who denied Jesus, three times. Indeed he is the man who was too afraid to stand by his Master's cross, and also he is the man who experienced a profound conversion at the Resurrection, and, in addition, he is the man who is now taking to heart and also into action the mission of reconciliation. We recognize that for Peter and the other apostles, the Resurrection of Our Lord was an experience of unparalleled forgiveness and reconciliation. Their abandoning of Jesus at the critical time was forgiven, and that very same forgiveness is now the main subject of Peter's preaching: "Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away." Indeed, Peter knew what he was talking about for he had experienced it himself.

In the second passage of the day, the author John reminds us that although Christ brings forgiveness and reconciles us to God, the daily struggles, conflicts and difficulties of life remain. John assures us that Christ intercedes for us, but as importantly John also invites us to live the reconciled life by adhering to God's commandments. John warns us that conversion is not an exercise of the mind only, but also that it is seen in our activity as, in a sense, evidence. Indeed, only by living the reconciled life do we really "know" Christ.

Similar to the other many accounts of the appearances of the risen Lord, our Gospel section begins with an experience of reconciliation: We hear the words "Peace to you." The Gospel then illustrates how the mission of reconciliation and peace is to be shared first by beginning with the Scriptures. This means the good and reconciling news is spread at the outset by proclaiming and explaining hopefully clearly the meaning of the Scriptures. We observe this in Peter as he begins his proclamation by explaining that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophets and of the promise of Abraham. Proclaiming this reconciling good news is the mission given to the apostles by Jesus. As the apostles begin to fulfill this mission, the Church starts to be formed.

Bear in mind first there has to be a mission, or purpose, and then there can be a church. It is so very clear that the mission of reconciliation that the risen Christ gave us comes before the Church. Indeed, the Church exists only because of this sacred mission and only to fulfill the mission. It seems mighty important that we understand this priority and to put things into proper perspective. As "Church," therefore, we must be concerned, first of all, not with reaching in and gazing on ourselves, but in fact reaching out to others. Contrary to the culture of today, not me, but you and everyone else! We must offer to people the message and meaning of Christ's reconciling love. Have you noticed that when we do this, our Church grows and flourishes? Attending to the mission of good news and reconciliation puts first things first, and only then does the Church comes alive.