The Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, begins tonight October 3rd at sundown and continues through nightfall tomorrow night. This is considered the most important day of the Jewish year when Jews attempt to mend their relationship with God. I blog about this today for at least two reasons -I believe in the power of knowing about our Jewish roots, as they give us a rootedness that the New Testament alone cannot; and, I believe the world is desperately in need of mending relationships and repentance. My experience has taught me that sacred scripture is always alive with wisdom for each of us, no matter what our faith background. As I prayed this morning with Leviticus 16, I looked past the foreign terms and tried to ‘listen with the ear of heart’.
As I read Leviticus 16, the passages spoke to me through my particular lenses as: Catholic, student of Saint Benedict’s Rule, Lover of Scripture.
I learned that the Day of Atonement (at-onement)was the day the High Priest made an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people. It was the only time during the year that the priest, as intercessor, crossed the threshold and entered the tent, the dwelling of God to atone for the sins of the community. A blood sacrifice is to the Lord and a goat is released into the wilderness to symbolically carry away the sins of the people, never to return. I understand this blood offering in light of Christ, High Priest, who offered himself, his blood for my sins. Hebrews 1:23 tells me of Christ, ” He is reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” For me, this day evokes previous lenten journeys in my life – those formal periods found in the preparatory weeks preceding Easter and those Lenten moments of scrutiny and turning toward God in repentance that have arrived at many other times in my life. The most powerful image came in Leviticus 16:21 “Then Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel… and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.” In laying both hands it signifies transference rather than ownership. All sins are transferred onto the goat and it is released. Christ, the incarnation of God’s hospitality, died that this might be our experience of repentance leading to forgiveness, reconciliation and a time to spiritually start anew. These passages were a reminder of the importance of practicing biblical justice – seeking right relationship in three ways within self, with God and with others. These reflections strengthen my rootedness in scripture and in the sacred history of God’s presence on my life and they call me to mend rather than break apart relationships. They call me to begin with my own desire for repentance and reconciliation. How can you live these three R’s: rootedness, repentance and reconciliation? How can they lead you to live a greater experience of biblical justice where relationship between God, self and others prospers?