In his address to our separated brethren, Pope Francis manifested the salvific reality of the Petrine office to be found in his ability and willingness both to be docile to the Truth, Who is Christ, and to repent when called to accountability to that Truth. As I indicated in an earlier article, the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven are given to the Peter as the grace of that persevering humility and docility, which leads to an authentically purifying and salvific repentance.
The whole of the Christian life is rooted in and nourished by a deep trust in Jesus and in the integrity of His teachings. These, in turn, lead to a more perfect repentance. as we allow the Holy Spirit to purify our sin-seared conscience into a sincere conscience.
One important dimension of this saving dynamic is the realization that none of us, strictly speaking, is saved. Salvation is not something we receive from Jesus. If it were, this would indicate that salvation could be alienated from Christ as a thing - a kind of "Salvation Express" credit card (Don't leave this world without it!) Rather it is a gracious and sanctifying dynamic of love shared with us by Him. There can be no salvation outside communion with the whole Christ, both Jesus and His Mystical Body, the Church.
In light of this, we have to carefully reexamine our sanitized premises regarding the nature of holiness. Holiness is not measured by what we have done, but rather by Who we have become through the obedience of faith. Our sanctifying actions flow from our regeneration in Christ and from our sanctifying relationship with Him, into which we invite others by our prayer, sacrifices, ministry and fellowship.
Church unity will not be realized by seeking to water down the faith convictions of Christians. Rather, such unity will come about when each of us becomes increasingly willing to be challenged by one another to seek the Lord, while He may be found. Thus, as we lovingly challenge one another to take Christ more seriously, we will discover the courage, wisdom and patience needed to embrace that deepening discernment, prayer, repentance and love, whereby the Holy Spirit forms us as one body one spirit.
The choice before us is whether we want to repent more deeply or to resent more deeply. Godly repentance, in Christ through the gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit, leads to reconciliation and life. An alienating resentment, on the other hand, seeks to abort any attempt to humbly reverence the whole truth of God.
All this is predicated on our appreciation of the basic assertion of St. Paul that he proclaims Christ crucified. All faithful Christians are called upon by Our Lord to enter into the sanctifying fellowship of His crucified Body. On the cross, the whole body of Christ suffered. Thus we, as members of His Mystical Body, are called to embrace the faith in His Father's merciful love, whereby the floodgates of mercy, reconciliation and love were opened for the world.
Suffering crucifixion with Christ is agonizing and awkward, but it is permeated with a joy and a hope that this world can neither give nor take away. For our faith in Him convicts us of the fact that, through our privileged sharing in the awkward mystery and ministries of His cross, we discover a life and a spiritual generativity that perdures to eternal life.
Spero columnist Rev. Thomas Collins is a Catholic priest who serves the people of Virginia.