The church - community of pardon

THE CHURCH - COMMUNITY OF PARDON

With the dwelling among men in the flesh of the Eternal Son of God, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God at Pentecost, God reveals Himself to the world through the Church. This mystical presence of the Body of Christ is the community of those who are reconciled to the Father, in Christ, and thus are united to with one another in the Holy Spirit. It is through this unity of believers in One Body that the Church becomes a sign of God’s presence in the world. Unfortunately through weakness, selfishness and sin, which are the cause of division and conflict, the fullness of this manifestation is diminished. If the Church is to make God visible to the world it is necessary that there be constantly present amongst the believers the desire and effort to achieve reconciliation and pardon. These irreplaceable qualities, which bring about communion in forgiveness, must be clearly and outwardly manifest. They cannot remain interior and invisible. Therefore this mystery of the Church demands that Christians love one another in a visible and concrete way – and that this love be extended to all men. 

Christ will not be visible to the world in His Church except in proportion as Christians seek peace and unity with one another and with all men. This is no easy task since conflict is inevitable as we continue to live and struggle to overcome the weakness of our fallen state. Unity cannot be maintained except in great difficulty, with constantly renewed sacrifice, with lucid honesty, openness, humility, and the readiness to seek forgiveness and to forgive. Christian life is a perpetual conversion, a turning to God through His Church, which is the community of pardon.

In so far as the Church is a community of pardon it is an epiphany of the Divine Love, a continual living of Agape. It is this Divine Love that underlies the mystery of creation and redemption. This love is the key to everything, but it cannot be known, discovered, or understood by rational investigation alone. It must be revealed to men as a free gift from God. It is revealed to all in the gift of love. God has willed that men should know him, not in esoteric secrets or strange philosophies, not in rigid laws or confining practices, but in the announcement of the Gospel message which is the message of His love. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15, 12) “You have not chosen me but I have chosen you, and have appointed you that you should go and bear fruit … These things I command you that you love one another.” (John 15, 16-17) The love of Christians, commanded by God and carried out by them, makes them as St. Paul describes “God’s workmanship.” (Ephesians 2, 10) 

We cannot regard this command as only a message, an idiom. If it remains only a matter of words it cannot be fully received and fully understood. The word of the Gospel is understood only when it is obeyed. Those who strive to practice it know it. We must also realize that this Gospel message is more than a moral doctrine that can be preached by example. It is through the gift of the Holy Spirit of God and the power which comes thereof, that we enter into the living and active communion of love which has become the center of salvation. The Gospel message of love is the Kerygma of God’s love for man in Christ. The communion of love is a profound religious mystery, for it is not only the participation of man in a natural love for his brother, but a participation in the love of God for sinful man. This love has been revealed to us in the mystery of the Cross-and the Resurrection.

How do we enter fully into this mystery? It is through our reception of the Holy Spirit of God, which is the Love of God, and through our cooperation with this divine gift. The Holy Spirit dwells in the Church and gives life to all that live in Christ, that is to all the members of the Church. The Holy Spirit gives light and love to those who are enlightened by the word of the Gospel and who seek truth and life in Jesus Christ. As the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one, so also are all who live in this bond of unity with one another. All who have been reconciled to the Father through the Son live in unity with one another through the Holy Spirit.

Before His death on the Cross, Jesus told his disciples that he would soon come to them not visibly but in the Holy Spirit. And through the presence of the Holy Spirit he would continue to dwell with them. “ I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14, 18-20)  “But when the Counselor (Advocate) comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Sprit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you are my witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15, 26-27) 

As Christ passed from death to life in the Spirit, for death did not hold  him he rose to new life, (I Peter 3, 18) so also does the Christian who follows Christ through this Paschal Mystery through death to life. Sin is pardoned, man is redeemed. But this redemption comes not by the destruction and punishment of man’s freedom, but by its purification, its fulfillment. Through this purified freedom man accepts the redemptive power of the Cross. It is man’s freedom that is nailed to the Cross with Christ and which rises to new life in the Christian Agape, the experience of Divine Love. This Divine Love is made manifest to the world when each individual renounces what is purely selfish, and by the confession of his wrong and the request for forgiveness, enters once again into the fullness of the community of pardon.

But no one sincerely confesses his own sin without at the same time pardoning his brother. (Matthew 18, 23-35) Forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to the world in Christ, who himself proclaimed this forgiveness from the Cross. This forgiveness is granted to all whom, in the act of seeking pardon, pardons others and makes him an instrument of divine mercy. Sin cannot be pardoned and healed without love, for the root of sin is a refusal of love, given and received.  No matter how great our sin, it is forgiven when we consent to love. “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7, 47) 

The Gospel then is a message of reconciliation in the Spirit of Love, the Holy Spirit of God.  Those who receive the Holy Spirit are reconciled to God and to one another in Love. The supreme purpose of life is then to receive the Holy Spirit, to live by the Spirit, and to have Him dwelling and acting in our hearts. It is for this reason that the Holy Spirit awakens in us faith in Christ and nourishes that faith. Thus we are drawn into the Church, which is the Body of Christ. When we live as members of the Body of Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit. Through the Sacraments we participate in this Life of the Spirit. Love if the guarantee that the life of the Spirit is growing in us.  He who confesses Christ loves his brother. Love is the sign of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church and in the world. Love is the manifestation in the world that the Body of Christ is the community of pardon, the pouring out of the life of Christ to all whom would seek it. 

“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so love us, we ought to also love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.” (I John  4, 7-13)

Site fondé par Père Guy Barrandon († 15 Octobre 2011)