Luis Leon to Preach at St. Peter’s

This Sunday, May 7, I have been asked to be in conversation with you on the overarching topic of “Reconciliation.”  I look forward to being with you and in anticipation of our time together I offer these comments to begin our conversation.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in words spoken on his appointment as Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa on November 30, 1995 said,” True reconciliation is never cheap, for it is based on forgiveness which is costly.”

In Donald Shriver’s book “An Ethic for Enemies: Forgiveness in Politics” we find the complex and multidimensional concept of forgiveness: 1) Forgiveness begins with memory suffused with moral judgement. Forgive and forget is a popular slogan. Remember and forgive, in the Christian faith, is a more accurate slogan. 2) Forgiveness gets its real start under the double impetus of judgement and forbearance from revenge. Unaccompanied by forbearance moral judgement often fuels new enmity.3) the third element in the transaction that has great significance for a new relationship is empathy for the offender. Empathy should be distinguished from sympathy. Understanding the humanity of others is a step toward entertaining the possibility of living with them as fellow human beings. 4) The fourth dimension aims at the renewal of the relationship. Forgiveness seeks to repair the fractures of enmity.  A desire for a new way of relationship called reconciliation, a word best reserved for the end of a process that forgiveness begins.

The Reverend Luis Leon, Rector, St. John’s Church Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C.

Assistant Rector, St. Peter’s Church – 1977-1980