Sunday, 5 June 2016



My brother Peter and I have taken to computing late in our lives. In fact so late that a student was amazed that someone of my antiquity could teach himself this modern technology. He must have thought I belonged to the pre-industrial age and hadn't got beyond writing with a goose quill! But you would be amazed what we 'silver surfers' can do!
Peter and I are always delighted when one of us has learnt a new computer technique and can share it with each other. One of the most useful ones he taught me is entitled, 'Restoring System and Settings.' As you probably know, this is a form of crisis management, when, for some mysterious reason, the computer refuses to function properly. We've all experienced that, and it's both frustrating and infuriating. But Peter showed me a way of putting the clock back to a time when all the settings functioned properly.
Reflecting on the relief and joy that gave led me to musing on how wonderful it would be if we could put the clock back, and so undo the mistakes we've made in our lives. We've all said and done things we regret -hurtful words to someone we love, and wish we'd never spoken. We've made rash decisions, which we wish we could undo. Sadly, desperately, we fear that what's done is done. Wistfully, we may sing, "Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away..." Or we may echo the song in "Jesus Christ, Superstar," with the plea, "Can't we start again?"
Then I recalled the hope given me by the technique of restoring the settings when my computer refused to function properly. I wondered whether the settings could be restored when serious sin had caused our lives to descend into chaos. Or does that damage our relationship with God irrevocably?
Certainly it would be dishonest for us to pretend that we hadn't behaved badly, when we had. Not even God can make the past not to have happened. But he can "restore the settings" in our lives, by forgiving us when we have sinned. His mercy restores our innocence. When we've fallen he lifts us up, so that we can make a fresh start. He bridges the gulf between Him and us, caused by serious sin. That He does through the sacrament of reconciliation. Then we can function properly as true followers of Christ.
There's no pretence here. God doesn't deny that we've sinned, nor should we. Nor does He say sin doesn't matter. It does. It damages our relationship with God, often harms other people and brings out the worst in us. But God takes the initiative in extending the healing hand of peace. Without denying our sins he puts them behind Him and us. It's as though he said, "That's over and done with, let's make a fresh start together."
And the technique of restoring settings taught me what I must do if my relationship with God has gone wrong. Just as I must turn to the "Help" facility and follow the instructions, which will enable my computer to function correctly again, so, too, I must seek the help of God's loving mercy when my life has gone wrong. I have the wonderful reassurance that in his infinite power He can "restore the settings," however badly my life may have crashed.
Sadly, this doesn’t always happen when things go wrong in human relationships. To "restore the settings" all who are involved must want to bury the past and make a fresh start together. But however willing one of us may be to do that, he or she will be stymied in these efforts at reconciliation unless they're met half way.
But thank heavens God always wants us to be at peace with Him and is prepared to reach out to us, even though He's the innocent one who has been offended. He waits for us to grasp the hand of love and mercy. As we embrace, He "restores the settings" so that we can respond to each other with love.
So, to the question, "Can't we start again?" The answer is a definite "YES!" -through God's loving mercy restoring our settings when our lives have crashed through sin. This Year of Mercy has been specially dedicated to ‘restoring our settings."
I thank Peter for showing me how to deal with my recalcitrant computer. The technique for " restoring system and settings" has given me a fresh insight into the healing power of God's mercy.
Isidore Clarke O.P.

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