Restitution as a way of communicating “true sorryness” (Canon Rowan Smith, Dean Emeritus, St George’s Cathedral)

rowan-smithThe basis for our understanding of restitution arises out of both our responsibilty to God and to our neighbour.  To acknowledge that all is gift from God and that “I am my brother’s keeper” is to accept responsibilty for my actions. Thus I would ask of God forgiveness for my sin where I have erred in any way.  Cain in killing his brother Abel does not do this and so refuses to behave in a mature relationship with God . Sadly, this attitude towards God and our neighbour persists to this day.  Those who refused to appear before the TRC displayed this behaviour which is a result of fear rather than love – fear of punishment.  Within the catholic tradition of the Church, in sacramental confession , refered to as the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Penitent says “…I am truly sorry, firmly mean to do better and humbly ask pardon of God , and of you penance, and absolution .” ( Anglican Prayer Book p. 449)  The “penance” is a way of indicating the sincerity of one’s confession and a sign of retribution.  Archbishop Desmond would say thus if I confess to stealing my neighbour’s bicycle, my penance would be to return the stolen item. Actions following words and “..being truly sorry “.

We in South Africa need to move towards a renewed spirit of altruism and those of us who profess to be Christian, towards displaying maturity of faith in our relationship with God.  As St Paul says, I am not there yet but I seek to strive towards that goal of Christ in me ,the hope of glory. We desperately need to hear that Christian voice which calls us all to accountabilty both towards God and our neighbour.

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