So David summoned the people of Gibeon and said to them, ‘What can I do for you? I want to make up for the wrong that was done to you, so that you will bless the Lord’s people’. 2 Samuel 21: 3
Restitution was the hallmark of the Penitentials which Celtic church leaders popularised throughout Europe. Unlike the continental church, where confession was made to a priest, and absolution received without restitution having to be made to the wronged person, the Celts based penitence upon restitution. Sin had to be dealt with. Wrongs had to be put right. The aim was that the relationship with the wronged person was restored.
Columba’s great act of penance for his part in associating Christianity with violence was to go into exile from his beloved homeland for the rest of his life, in order to take Christ’s love to another people. In recent times Christians have made penance for the way the Crusades associated Christ with mindless killing of Muslims, by Prayer Walks of Reconciliation along routes where innocent people were killed. One such walker told me of local Muslims coming to the walkers in tears and in love. The aim of the walkers was not to convert, it was to make penance and to ask forgiveness. If it dawns on Muslims that following Christ is about following unconditional love, a whole new set of dynamics will come into play.
During the coming years, could we identify wrongs others feel we have committed against them, and make acts of atoning service? In that way, some of the baggage of hates, hurts, fears and mistrust of the second millenium need not be carried over into the third.
We weep for Christian buildings that speak of domination
for Christian communities that became places of greed
for churches that became distant from the poor.
Sorry Lord for the sins committed by Christians
during the Age of Pisces
for being corrupted by power
for not listening to you
or to the cries of the people
for not honouring your presence in creation
in the simple things all around