“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-18
One of the first people I met in nursing home ministry was Bruce, a 90-pound wisp of a man who shuffled about slowly, and always had a smile and something positive to say.
During one of our first conversations, after reception of the Eucharist, he asked if he could tell me something. “I’m not sure I can go to heaven,” he said. “I don’t know if I can be forgiven.”
I referred him to our priest for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which he gladly accepted. But, over the next year, Bruce confided he still wasn’t sure he could be forgiven for all he’d seen and done during the Vietnam War.
I wanted to say something profound to ease Bruce’s pain, to reassure him of God’s love and grace — some erudite nugget of theological gold. But, all I came up with was something like, “Bruce, God loves you, and his grace is more powerful than us and our sins.” That became our mantra.
In my last visit to Bruce, he smiled as broadly as I ever saw him smile, and said he was getting ready for his trip. “Where are you going Bruce?” He just pointed at the ceiling, and said “I am going home.” The next day, Bruce did just that.
Bruce was reconciled to God — went home to God — not because of anything I gave him. I didn’t overpower his guilt and fear with some amazing theological nugget. I was just present with him. God did all the work.
Each of us, at some point, will have the same fears and doubts as Bruce. And each of us has the power to kindle reconciliation, to guide others into the warmth of God’s grace and love, simply by being there, and allowing Christ’s love to flow through us. What parts of your life today need reconciliation? In what ways is God empowering you to foster reconciliation for others?
O Lord Christ, thank you for reconciling us to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Give us the strength, courage and wisdom to embrace reconciliation, and to be the bridge of love and grace to lead others into your loving arms. Amen.