Eucharist and Reconciliation

A Way into Theology

Down through history arguments about their varying understandings of God and his Church have alienated people one from another - not least in Northern Ireland. There is nothing so futile and so destructive of true religion and its miraculous potential for peace on earth (Isaiah 2) as polemic about the mystery of God and his Church.

Circumscribing God is the believer's occupational hazard. Adoration leads us to discover what Bishop Jeremy Taylor, Anglican bishop of Down and Dromore, said in a lecture at Trinity College, Dublin in the 1660:

Theology is rather a divine life than a divine knowledge.In heaven indeed, we shall first see and then love;but here on earth we must first love and love will open our eyes as well as our hearts, and we shall see and then perceive and understand"

As they come to see themselves as Catholic and Protestant for rather than against one another, the congregations discover that Christ's Church is bigger than their own tradition and culture. They find that the Church has, in fact, no boundaries, but only a horizon - the reconciliation of nations and cultures in Jesus, the Lord of history, the coming of the kingdom of God.

I believe that we, the people of N.I, now have the opportunity to realise and showcase to the world God's vision, of peace, which the prophet Isaiah gave us 28 centuries ago.

Isaiah sees the mountain of the Lord's temple soaring above every other mountain, and all the nations of the world streaming to meet God on the Holy Mountain. He sees the nations discovering, in their shared encounter with God, who they really are. God, in revealing himself to them, reveals them to one another. They come to see themselves as no longer enemies at war but as brothers and sisters in the one family of God.

Isaiah's vision is valid for all times and places. It's is God's way of transforming history. It is now newly possible for us in Northern Ireland to make it a reality here.

The people of Ireland and of Britain have been through immense pain during the years of conflict. There is no way to deal adequately with that pain. In the end the wounded live with their wounds. And nothing will bring back those who died in the violence.

But the burden of pain must not inhibit our capacity for generosity. That would be to betray our gracious God who

"in Christ was reconciling the world to himself,not holding anyone's faults against them,but entrusting to us the message of reconciliation."

(2 Corinthians 5.19)

So may we all be captivated by the vision of peace, first revealed to the prophet Isaiah. It is God's gracious plan for all times and places. No more training for war, but swords turned into ploughs, spears into pruning knives.

The living God wants to see us working together for the good of all, and the walls dividing us levelled to the ground. So let's think big! Act small! Be afraid no more. Reach out in friendship day by day. Let's do our part bravely and with love. Wherever we see a wall dividing people pull out at least one brick. We're on the road together with the Risen Lord.