Reconciliation – A Work in Progress
During the dark days of apartheid, many Catholic parishes had Justice and Peace Groups. In some places people preferred the name “Justice and Reconciliation” for their group but, whatever the name, there was an understanding that there could be no peace without justice… and no true reconciliation between different groups of people until we had justice in our land.
This weekend we commemorate Freedom Day, that day in 1994 when all adults were allowed to exercise their right to vote, irrespective of race. On that day we got a new flag and a new interim constitution. There was a lot of joy in the Mandela years, and so much relief, but perhaps we didn’t all realise that the hard work was only beginning. Instead of really intensifying our church’s contribution towards justice and reconciliation, many parish groups shut down their J&P groups altogether. Were we too quick to identify democracy with total justice, and Mr Mandela’s kindness with true reconciliation between the races?
Next year will mark the twentieth anniversary of the “New South Africa” and there will be a lot of analysis and soul-searching about how far we have come… together with a lot of campaigning in what is sure to be a very important general election. Will we be able to hold our heads high? Yes, many of our city parishes have come a long way in twenty years, but what of their surrounding regions? Can we really say that there is full reconciliation in our country as a whole?
Like with so many Christian virtues, reconciliation among people is not something that can be achieved once and for all, but is something we must continue to work towards every day, every year, and in every generation. Let us take the great reconciliation between God and humanity as our model. God reconciled us to himself through the redemptive work of his only Son, Jesus Christ. If we can be more Christ-like, and not think of ourselves in isolation from others, all kinds of reconciliation will be within reach: reconciliation between Black and White, between men and women, between Catholics and Protestants, between us humans and the environment. This weekend, let us pledge ourselves to this mission once again!