(A Post-Easter reflection)


The ecumenical calling of the Church is to build just societies by participation in the struggles of the people for human dignity. So questions of human rights are vital concerns of forgivness and reconciliation. Christian commitment to justice is deeply rooted in the prophetic biblical tradition as we find in Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good; seek justice”; Isaiah 2:4 “the will of the Lord for the nations of the world”, and Amos 5:24 “Justice shall roll down like waters and righteousness like an overflowing stream”

The WCC’s “Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches seeking Reconciliation and Peace” (2001-2009) was indeed a call to critically examine the Biblical basis for inter-faith relationship so as to build a culture of peace all over the world. “Peace on Earth” is the call of the Spirit addressed to all across any cultural or religious divide. The ultimate goal of peace making is to build a community of communities for the glory of God (cf. 2Cor.5:21 - “that you may become the righteousness of God”). This is possible only if the mission of the Church is geared to social amity and wholeness rooted in justice, forgiveness and reconciliation. The issue of peace in pluralistic societies particularly in Asia calls forth the evolution of just social structures for which the spirituality of religion rather than its religiosity is required. Forgiveness and reconciliatrion are to be made visible in areas of “sinned against sectors" namely violation of human rights, degradation of human dignity, gender discrimination displacement of the weaker sections in the name of development, anthro-centric attitude to life, adjusting with corruption in public life, indifference to violence and terrorism, eulogizing digital divide, neglect of social sectors, conspiracy of silence in speaking about the environmental rights and lack of transparency and accountability in public life . Forgiveness and Reconciliation have much to do in our social net-work.

There are no sectors of life without its impact. M. M. Thomas spoke of the tension between “the priestly ministry of liberating reconciliation and the prophetic ministry of liberating conflict”. And he asked, “How can we at once messengers of peace in a world of strife and messengers of strife in a world of false peace”. Jermeiah asked the same question long ago when he said, “They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying ,”peace, peace” when there is no peace” (Jere. 6:14). Reconciliation is possible only when justice has been achieved and those responsible for acts and structures of injustice have been brought to repentance”. What is before the church is justice over order! One should remember that wound should never be justified and justice should never be wounded.

There is no reconciliation between justice and injustice, good and evil and “God and the devil” (Konard Raiser). Struggle for justice should have priority over the work of reconciliation. Truth is the mediating term between justice and reconciliation. In the acts of solidarity with the marginalized and the oppressed of Jesus, God acts. In his suffering, God too suffers. In his resurrection, God gives us a new impetus for action. This is clearly stated in the Song of Mary. (Luke.1:46-55)

There is an ethical imperative in Ephesians 4:32. “…and be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you” God’s plan to create “one new man in place of two is a process in history. (Eph.2:13-15) This is quite visible in the earthly ministry of Jesus when he received “the dishonest tax collectors and other notorious sinners” (Luke 15:1-The Living Bible trans.). Church being the Eucharistic presence of the Kingdom on earth is being sent to continue the work in history so as “to gather up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth”.

Liberation and Reconciliation:
Liberation and reconciliation are paradigms for mission. In 2 Cor.5:17-20:One may find five connected issues.

i) Reconciliation is the work of God.
ii) God’s reconciling work begins with the victim.
iii) God makes both the victim and the wrong doer a new creation.
v) The Christian places the suffering inside the story of the suffering and the death of Christ. (cf. Phillipians 3:10)

This is the message of the cross. In the process of reconciliation, two things are imperative:

  1. Truth telling. Truth telling is an essential ingredient for the reconstruction of the community. There is need for the cleaning of wells which have been polluted by age old deposits of prejudice, discrimination, inequality and violence. In the case of the Post-Apartheid South Africa, Truth, Reconciliation and Justice played a significant role in the process of restoration.

  2. The pursuit of justice. It is pre-condition for reconciliation and a way of healing the past. There are 3 forms of justice. They are punitive, restorative, and structural. All these effort shall lead to the healing of memories. Healing of memories simply means that memories are no longer toxic.Foriveness is not forgetting, but remembering it in a different way. “In forgiving one establishes a different relationship to the perpetrator who is also a deeply wounded person. He also needs a healing touch. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has rightly said, “There is no future without forgiveness”. This is the call of the Spirit in Romans Chapter 8:19-26.

Foriveness: divine in human hearts:
“Forgiveness is an empowered form of giving” ( Doris Donnelly). It is an event, not an idea. In forgiving, one owns and disowns what had blocked the flow of love in relationship. The Greek proverb “if the camel hadn’t knelt down, it couldn’t have been loaded” adds luster to what St. Paul wrote:” … in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself. Not counting their trespasses against them…” (2Cor.5:19). God does not die the day when we cease to forgive others, but we become dust on the day when we cease to be illumined by the radiance of divine forgiveness. “One loving spirit sets another on fire” (St.Augustine).

Church as a reconciling community:
The Church as reconciling community should be understood against the background of a broad biblical vision of God’s reconciling and peace making mission. The OT vision of Shalom, a dynamic concept for restoration and renewal, speaks of primarily the future in God’s sight for all. The biblical vision of Shalom is indeed a vision of wholeness, of harmony and social amity. It embraces the entire order of creation. (cf. Is. 2:1-4;9:2-7;11:1-9; Ezek.34:23-31; 37:24-28; Ps.85:8-13; 122:6-9; Lev.25:3-7; Deut.8:7-10; Mal.2:5) “It functions always on a firm rejection of values and life-styles that seek security or well-being in manipulative ways at the expense of another part of creation, another part of community, or brother or sister” (Brueggemann). Jesus calls upon his disciples to practise “righteousness” so as become perfect in the sight of God. So we read in St. Matthew 5:23-24: ”When you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift.”

The same idea is found in the parable of the two debtors (Matt. 18:23-32). The whole life of Jesus could be summed up in the very act of forgiving as we find in Luke 23:24 ”Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. The marga of forgiveness is being followed down through the centuries by noble men and women. When Godse shot Mahatma Gandhi down in the gardens of Birla Mandir, Gandhi crumbled instantly “putting his hands to his forehead in the Hindu gesture of forgiveness to his assassin” (quoted from P.N.Benjamin, Viay Times 30 Jan.2006). Gladys Staines preached the greatest sermon ever heard in the missionary movements when the media sought her response after the sentence of Dara Singh and 12 accomplices: She said:” I have forgiven the killers. Nothing I say or do will bring Graham and my sons back”. She added, “Forgiving helps in the healing process”. (See The Week September 19, 2004).

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