by David Romanik
The Collect for both the Thursday in Easter Week and the Second Sunday of Easter observes that “in the Paschal mystery”, God “established the new covenant of reconciliation”. To put it another way: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ created the conditions in which we could be reconciled to one another. What I find deeply moving about this observation is that it assumes that Easter is about more than our eternal future: it is about our relationship to the people around us here and now. At the same time, this Collect leads us to wonder what it means to be reconciled to the people around us. Reconciliation, after all, tends to be one of those “church words” we use without really knowing what we are saying. What exactly do we mean when we refer to the “covenant of reconciliation”?
Believe it or not, I think the most helpful image of reconciliation can be found in the discipline of accounting. Those who balance their checkbooks regularly (I can’t really claim to be one of those people) are familiar with the act of reconciliation: the process by which we ensure that our bank statement matches our personal accounting of the checks we have written. In this sense, reconciliation is about making sure that two parties (you and your bank) are saying the same thing about one reality (the amount of money you have). According to this logic, the covenant of reconciliation is about seeing the world the same way as the people around us. In this sense, it would seem that the Church’s call is to get people to say the same things about what it means to be human.
This is, of course, easier said than done. In recent years, the disagreements that have long plagued our body politic have metastasized to the point that human beings inhabit different realities. How can we possibly say the same thing about what it means to be human when we can’t even agree on basic facts? Is reconciliation even possible in a context like this? It would seem that our efforts to create a world in which everyone agrees are doomed to failure.
As Christians, our response to this somewhat dispiriting conclusion ought to be: “well, of course it is”. Our faith is predicated on the assumption that human beings are sinful, that when left to our own devices, we will take every opportunity to deny the image of God in ourselves and others. Indeed, we spent the entirety of Lent acknowledging as much. Human beings have never been able to find agreement about what it means to be human. For this reason, the covenant of reconciliation is not about getting everyone to see the world in the same way. The ministry to which we are all called through the Paschal mystery is to see the world as God sees it. Here is how God sees the world: God sees creation, ravaged by sin and degradation, plagued by fury and faithlessness, and continues to desire a relationship with us. Despite our failures, despite the fact that we are so often heedless of God’s call to care for those who cannot care for themselves, God craves a relationship with everyone. Easter is the ultimate expression of God’s desire for relationship. In the resurrection, God affirmed that not even the power of death could disrupt God’s desire to be in relationship with God’s people.
As participants in the new covenant of reconciliation, we are called to be animated by this same desire: to seek a relationship with all those with whom we share this life, regardless of who they are or where they come from: to see them as God sees them.