Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Meaning of Reconciliation

(This is a re-print from something I posted on my old blog, but I think folks might enjoy it....)

This might be a bold statement, but I’m going for it: the whole of salvation history is summed up in the word “reconciliation.”

What exactly does this word mean? I heard this from David Fagerberg, one of my former professors at Notre Dame: “cilia” is the Latin word for eyelash. So let’s piece it together: if “re” means “again,” and “con” means “with”, then “re-con-cilia-tion” is “to again be eyelash to eyelash with [someone].”

That’s about as close as you can get to a person; but notice, the emphasis is on regaining the closeness that you once had with someone.

We as human beings once had a great closeness with God, in the beginning. In their innocence, Adam and Eve stood uncovered before God, not needing to hide anything. God walked with them in the garden in the cool of evening, like you might do with an old friend after a big dinner --that’s closeness, being con-cilia. But we, in our forebears, separated ourselves from God by our pride, withdrew from that closeness, that intimacy, by wanting to change the nature of the relationship, by trying to be equal to God. Instead of being docile infants held in our Father’s arms, cheek to cheek, we were squirrely two-year olds who squirmed out. And when we realized what we did, we hid, we covered ourselves, and we couldn’t look God in the face anymore.

But God loved us and wanted us back. So He came among us as one of us, like to us in all things but sin—he had arms and legs, hands and feet, a heart and a mind… and eyelashes. Jesus came to sinners, to the afflicted, to the poor, and stood eye to eye with them and said: “Your sins are forgiven you.” And by His Cross, as man he stood eyelash to eyelash with God on our behalf and said, “Father, forgive them,” and as God could respond, “It is accomplished,” that is, our peace with God was restored.

And this is the Good News that the Apostles were sent to preach, as ambassadors for Christ, that “God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled himself to the world, and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins.” And for the last two thousand years, the Church has brought God’s pardon and peace to us sinners, in the sacrament of baptism where the stain of original sin is washed clean, and in the sacrament of reconciliation, where the priest, speaking as Christ, says to us, “I absolve you of your sins.”

God wants nothing more than to hold us and say, “I love you.” May He grant us the grace not to squirm, but to coo with delight, and nuzzle the nose of our Father.

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