Our Call to be Peacemakers: Biblical Insights SDG16 EN

 

Claretians. Our Call to be Reconcilers and Peacemakers I
Part I: Biblical Insights

J.M. Joseph Jeyaseelan, CMF

Sri Lanka

 

Reconciliation is a ministry and vocation that forms part of the core identity of the Church of God. In fact, the entire mission of the Church is about the ministry of reconciliation. The Church exists for the mission, and this mission is about reconciling all peoples and all things to God, and with one another. Jesus has invited us to be peacemakers, not mere peacekeepers.

 

This article comes in three parts:

Part I: Biblical Insights 

Part II: Resources for Reconciliation 

Part III: The Task before the Claretians 

 

Part I: Biblical Insights 

The classical New Testament passage that helps us to reflect on the vocation of the Church to engage in the ministry of reconciliation is 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

 

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

 

As Fr. Robert Schreiter points out, "these are strong and bold words on Paul's part, to insist that God is speaking through him, that he is an ambassador on behalf of Christ. Churches have continued since the time of Paul to take upon themselves the mantle of reconciliation, calling warring parties to peace, working toward the end of alienation, pulling down the walls of hostility."

 

The Pauline image of being an ambassador of Christ has a profound message for the ministry of reconciliation. First of all, an ambassador is a representative of a country. It can be interpreted for our purposes that we are ambassadors (representatives) of God in this world. Just as ambassadors don't carry out their own agenda, but represent the interests of their country as its representative, being an ambassador of reconciliation means that we are called to be representatives of God's world (new creation) and that we are only collaborators in the missio Dei. It means that God is the author of all reconciliation. 

 


As Fr. Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice state, "Christian ministers of reconciliation engage the world's realities while pointing out to the reality of a new creation.... God's gift of a call to be Christ's ambassadors of reconciliation intends to unseat other lords—power, nationalism, race or ethnic loyalty as an end in itself—and give birth to deeper allegiances, stories, spaces, and communities that are a 'demonstration plot' of the reality of God's new creation in Christ."


What is said here is that the Church should not carry on this ministry of reconciliation in the way the world understands and presents it: that reconciliation is about strategies, policies, and plans, and reduce it to a simplistic formula (A leads to B, and A and B together produce C). In fact, reconciliation is rarely a linear process with predictable outcomes. Therefore, as Katongole and Rice remind us, what the Church has been called to is "to be a people who share a story and a journey.... The primary task of the Church in reconciliation is not to mediate but to point beyond conflict." As they point out, "The scripture gives us such a story—that there are alternatives and that this task of reconciliation is about imagining new ways to draw from the story of promises not yet fulfilled."

 

Gathering inspiration from several Pauline texts, Fr. Katongole, in another work of his together with Wilson-Hartgrove, says this:

 

The mission of the Church is rooted in the mission of God. Second Corinthians 5:17-20 makes clear that God’s work in Jesus was to reconcile all things to himself. The deepest truth in the universe is that God has already accomplished this. Ephesians says that the dividing wall of hostility between peoples has already been destroyed (2:14). Galatians says there is no longer male nor female, Greek nor Jew, slave nor free (3:28). This isn’t something we hope for God to do in the future. The truth is that God has already done it.

 

If reconciliation is God's work and if God has already done that, and if God wants the Church to carry forward that same mission, then God has gifted the Church with immense resources for the journey and ministry of reconciliation. What are these resources? (To be continued)

 

J.M. Joseph Jeyaseelan, CMF

Sri Lanka

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