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Posted January 18, 2007

Article: The Bishop, a Prophetic Voice for Reconciliation
Author: Bishop Gregory Aymond
Origins. Jan. 4. 2007. Vol. 36. No. 29

“As bishops we must speak and act as healers and reconcilers. The bishop is ordained to be that prophetic voice and one whose actions speak of healing . . .We live in a time when this is countercultural. Revenge is easier and more popular than forgiveness,” Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin, Texas, said in a presentation Nov. 15 to the U.S. bishops during their fall meeting in Baltimore. Aymond was invited by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Administrative Committee to lead an afternoon of prayer and reflection. For several years the bishops have convened privately for an afternoon of spiritual nourishment during their meeting. “The bishop must be a prophetic voice of forgiveness and reconciliation both in our church and in our world,” said Aymond. He proposed nine ways to do this.

First, he said, in looking to the Gospel it is essential to see the “courageous way that Jesus went out as the healer, the reconciler.” In some dioceses, he suggested, being a prophetic voice as a bishop might mean “declaring a year of forgiveness and reconciliation and asking every parish, every organization, every pastoral council — everybody — to enter into prayer in that local church for healing.”

Aymond said, “It seems to me that sometimes we must respond to those who write to us or speak to us that we are surprised by their angry tone, but in a spirit of peace and reconciliation declaring that we are not the enemy but that we are disciples together.”

The other 8 suggestions on reconciliation by Aymond:

2. “For us to be a healer reminds us that we must be healed.”

3. “As bishops, we are called to live the Gospel of reconciliation: to teach it, to preach it and to live it.”

4. Ignatius of Loyola has given us as the church a very valuable gift. In the consciousness examen he tells us to prepare by recalling God’s presence, looking at the day with gratitude and asking the help of the Spirit to review the day. . . .May I suggest . . . . we consider another question. Was I called today to be an instrument of peace and healing and reconciliation? Did I respond to that call with openness?

5. As bishops of the church we must be a prophetic voice, encouraging our priests to celebrate the sacrament of penance regularly themselves. . . .Within our days of prayer, retreats, convocations, whatever we call them from diocese to diocese, it is a privileged opportunity for our priests to know the healing touch of God and to be able to experience that forgiveness that is so important to us personally first and then, of course, in our ministry of priesthood.

6. Maybe in some dioceses being a prophetic voice as bishop means declaring a year of forgiveness and reconciliation.

7. Wouldn’t it be interesting if in each of our diocese we took literally Jesus’ words that we find in Matthew 18:15-17? They are:

“If your brother should commit some wrong against you, go and point out his fault but keep it between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won you brother over. If he does not listen, summon another so that every case may stand on the word of two or three witnesses. If he ignores them, refer it to the church.”

What would happen if these words were lived out literally in our chancery offices and pastoral centers and among our staff and our clergy and religious and parishioners? How awesome it would be.

8. Realizing that you and I are God’s prophetic voice in this world at this time for this church, we must reach out to those who have been hurt by the church. That is part of our ministry, and we know that.

9. One of the great blessings in our church today is that we have many, many renewal programs, many movements in our church — Cursillo, Renew, ACTS, CRHP, Just Faith, charismatic renewal, Focolare, Schoenstatt,.

My suggestion is to ask them to embrace the Gospel of reconciliation, to teach it, to live it, to pray it. We can request all of these organizations to join with us in showing the way to healing and reconciliation.