Reconciliation: The Continuing Agenda, edited by Robert J. Kennedy
What is the relationship between repentance, penance, and reconciliation? Admittedly, I find that question to be highly interesting, and it appears as if reconciliation is a matter that causes a great deal of controversy among many people. This book is testament to the varying ideas that people have on reconciliation and what is required, both on a personal level as well as an institutional level. And if one is surprised that this would be a problem, with some people focusing on narrower subjects and others lost in visionary schemes for social justice, that ought not to be surprising. We bring into a discussion our own perspective and approach, and it is hard for us to realize how different this happens to be than the biblical perspective. To put it very simply, repentance is our own internal will and desire to change our wicked ways and be more aligned with God. Penance is the sort of behavior that provides evidence of this repentance to others, as an aid to reconciliation, which is the restoration of a positive relationship between God and man and mankind with each other. Obviously, different people will have very different views about the interaction between these three qualities and which of them is necessary to what extent about what issues.
This book is almost 300 pages long and is divided between a variety of different essays. The book begins with a dedication, list of contributors, foreword, and preface. After that there is a keynote address that speaks of the church as a sinful reconciler. This is followed by a discussion of the theological agenda of reconciliation which refers to the theological foundations of the task, its involvement with the community, the connections between baptism, penance, and the eucharist, the Christian ethic as being a reconciliation ethic, views of sin as an an abuse of power (neglecting other aspects of sin for political purposes), a history of penance in the early church, and some recent Catholic documents on the subject. After that there is a discussion of the pastoral agenda of reconciliation in one essay. This is followed by a discussion of rites of reconciliation in a few essays, including ideas to focus on penance in the Lenten season, some ideas of reconciliation in the U.S. Economy (more leftist political garbage here), as well as some discussions on the rite of reconciliation individually and communally. The book closes with a discussion of reconciliation in parish life, including dealing with canon law and the preaching of repentance, a single essay on the ascetical-mystical life, and a discussion of reconciliation as a continuing challenge in an afterword.
Reading a book like this is both fascinating and enlightening. I find it deeply interesting to see the perspectives that other people bring to common problems of humanity, and find it worthwhile to take some effort to understand those friends of mine who might come from the perspective spoken of in this book, which springs from the world of contemporary Roman Catholicism. Obviously in a book with a wide variety of perspectives there will be some perspectives that are closer to my own than others, and I find it easy to appreciate those approaches that are near my own and also worthwhile to ponder what it is that is different about other perspectives and the assumptions that they make. It is hard to win over offended brothers and sisters, regardless of the grounds of the offense or the reasonableness of that offense. This book is certainly no panacea when it comes to the subject but it certainly provides a welcome reminder that many people ponder about how it is to encourage reconciliation in various means and struggle with how fallible people are to live in light of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and the many layers of wrong that exist in this present evil world.