A brief reflection on restoring relationships

Good Friday, 2020

Today we reflect again on Jesus’ death, from which we draw our inspiration as the Community of the Cross of Nails, in the words of Jesus from the cross: Father, forgive. Without entering in too much detail the theological debate on the nature of atonement and sacrifice, I find it helpful to think of this transformational act of forgiveness in the context of Jesus’ parable of the Father’s love. The father seeks not retribution for past wrongs, but restored relationship with his son.

There are some further clues in Jesus’ death about how we approach the restoration of relationships. Firstly, he does not wait for those who nailed him there – or all of humanity – to beg forgiveness. His forgiveness is pre-emptive. Secondly, it is made freely available. His last words, “they know not what they do”, encapsulated the grace to forgive and restore a broken relationship whether or not the other party realises what they have done. Thirdly, it is an ongoing cathartic process. As the Oxford theologian Paul Fiddes notes, if salvation is about restored relationships, we must be open to being “part of the act of salvation, not merely a reaction to it afterwards”.

The Apostle Paul sums it up in 2 Corinthians 5: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us”. God reconciled the world to himself in Christ on the cross, but there remains an ongoing transformative process of reconciling us to God, each other, ourselves, and with the world around us. This is especially now as we re-discover our inter-dependence.

In these days of Covid-19 we see both the importance of relationships and the devastation when they are broken. We see too the impact of weak or unjust structures and systems which exclude the most vulnerable. We see the need for the catharsis of individual and collective forgiveness. We see the possibilities for thinking differently about how we care for our planet, as well as our neighbours.

In whatever small part we play in enabling people to journey from a fractured past towards a shared future, let us try to do so pre-emptively, proactively, consistently and graciously.

Mark Simmons, CCN UK & Ireland Board Chair

With thanks to our Head Verger, Dan Warchol-Anderson, for the photo, taken recently on his daily round of checks while the Cathedral, as much of the UK, is locked down. 

CCN Reflection for Good Friday – Mark Simmons, Chair of the CCN UK & Ireland Board
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