The call to penance and reconciliation is a call to unity of spirit

From Pope St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Pænitentia (1984):

At the end of this document I hear echoing within me and I desire to repeat to all of you the exhortation which the first bishop of Rome, at a critical hour of the beginning of the church, addressed “to the exiles of the dispersion . . . chosen and destined by God the Father . . . : Have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, a tender heart and a humble mind.”200 The apostle urged: “Have unity of spirit.” But he immediately went on to point out the sins against harmony and peace which must be avoided: “Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing.” And he ended with a word of encouragement and hope: “Who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right?”201

At an hour of history which is no less critical, I dare to join my exhortation to that of the prince of the apostles, the first to occupy this See of Rome as a witness to Christ and as pastor of the church, and who here “presided in charity” before the entire world. In communion with the bishops who are the successors of the apostles and supported by the collegial reflection that many of them, meeting in the synod, devoted to the topics and problems of reconciliation, I too wish to speak to you with the same spirit of the fisherman of Galilee when he said to our brothers and sisters in the faith, distant in time but so closely linked in heart: “Have unity of spirit. . . . Do not return evil for evil. . . . Be zealous for what is right.”202 And he added: “It is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong.”203

This exhortation is completely permeated by words which Peter had heard from Jesus himself and by ideas which formed part of his “good news”: the new commandment of love of neighbor; the yearning for and commitment to unity; the beatitudes of mercy and patience in persecution for the sake of justice; the repaying of evil with good; the forgiveness of offenses; the love of enemies. In these words and ideas is the original and transcendent synthesis of the Christian ethic or, more accurately and more profoundly, of the spirituality of the new covenant in Jesus Christ.

I entrust to the Father, rich in mercy, I entrust to the Son of God, made man as our redeemer and reconciler, I entrust to the Holy Spirit, source of unity and peace, this call of mine, as father and pastor, to penance and reconciliation. May the most holy and adorable Trinity cause to spring up in the church and in the world the small seed which at this hour I plant in the generous soil of many human hearts.

200 Cf 1 Pt 1:1f; 3:8.
201 1 Pt 3:9, 13.
202 1 Pt 3:8, 9, 13.
203 1 Pt 3:17.

Reconciliatio et Pænitentia 35

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