Theo 681 Penance and Penitence
Discussion Summary 9/10/96

I. The Christological basis for reconciliation
Presenter: Craig A. Satterlee

The New Testament speaks of reconciliation on every page, and this omni-presence is the basis for a theology of sacramental reconciliation. Reconciliation cannot be limited to any particular sacrament, such as baptism, the Eucharist, penance, or the anointing of the sick. Rather, reconciliation is an essential part of Gospel living. Jesus, in his humanity, is the basic or fundamental sacrament of reconciliation. It is also necessary to understand and experience the church as a basic sacrament of reconciliation. Biblical passages on the power to forgive sin cannot be interpreted as an "institution" of sacramental penance. Nor do they apply to the church hierarchy alone. These passages are about the church's power to isolate, repel, and negate sin. Regarding Matt. 18:18, some scholars argue that it is addressed to the whole Christian community. John 20:22-23 corroborates the conferral of the power to forgive sins. What is "bound" here is the person to a gospel way of life. There is also the power to preach God's forgiveness in Christ and/or admit to baptism (cf. Lk. 24:47 and Mk. 16:15 on preaching and Matt. 28:19 and Mk. 16:16 on baptism). In the NT, the church had to apply this power of forgiveness to all areas of post-baptismal sin. A sacramental ritual of reconciliation does not exist in the NT. We must consider Jesus as the primordial sacrament of reconciliation from two aspects: (1) from his message of reconciliation and (2) from his life-death-resurrection.

II. Reconciliation into the Paschal Mystery
Presenter: Stacey Wendlinder

The connection between Christ's death and resurrection and sacramental penance is important because the sacrament is how salvation is celebrated.
For Paul, the death of Jesus could only be understood in conjunction with the resurrection. Paul used many terms and metaphors to describe salvation. Eastern theologians combine biblical allusions to divinization with a neoplatonic understanding of the ascent of the soul, describing human salvation in terms of a return to God. The Western approach has focused exclusively on the death of Jesus as the salvific event. For Paul, the resurrection is "a chapter in the theology of the cross, not its surpassing counterpart." The early church tradition tended to interpret the death of Jesus so as to exclude a discussion of the resurrection. John Sobrino embraces the cross without dispensing with the resurrection. In the incarnation, God enters a world of sin that is a power that ultimately works against God. In the cross, God abandons Jesus as a denial of any human imaging of God. The cross reveals God's love in the suffering and death of the Son, thereby expressing ultimate solidarity with humanity. For Durwell, the resurrection transforms the sacrificial aspect into a "permanent act beyond which Christ's existence never passes." Justification includes this new way of being.