Small Thoughts on Atonement

Today is Yom Kippūr, the day of atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. This is the day where observant Jews fast and forgive all those who have wronged them in the previous year. In the time of the Temple, this is the day when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies, sacrificed, and made atonement for all Jews in the world.

For Christians, Jesus Christ our high priest has made this sacrifice – the perfect sacrifice of himself – and atoned for all the world (or at least those who accept this gift). Easter has become our Yom Kippūr.

Today is also the Memorial of the Guardian Angels. What an interesting combination.

Into your hands I commend my spirit:
you have redeemed me, Lord God of truth.
– psalm 30 (31), from today’s Office of Readings

Yesterday I lectored at my parish. I was particularly struck by the second reading, from the Epistle of James:

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.
Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten,
your gold and silver have corroded,
and that corrosion will be a testimony against you;
it will devour your flesh like a fire.
You have stored up treasure for the last days.
Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers
who harvested your fields are crying aloud;
and the cries of the harvesters
have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure;
you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.
You have condemned;
you have murdered the righteous one;
he offers you no resistance.
– James 5:1-6

Could there be a more explicit condemnation of the culture of consumerism that pervades the industrialized world? Have those who preach the gospel of wealth ever read this passage? [Y]our gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire.

I am certainly not immune to this condemnation. I shudder to think that the very clothes I wear (made with care in China and Indonesia by people earning scant pennies a day) make me complicit in sin – the wages you withheld from the workers… are crying aloud. What terrifying imagery! This is not just the rocks and stones crying out the gospel; this is the wages I withheld crying to the Lord. And not God in His Mercy, but the Lord of Hosts. Yikes.

Right about now, that atonement is looking pretty good to me. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy upon me, a poor sinner, and on the whole world.

3 Replies to “Small Thoughts on Atonement”

  1. Tnx for steering me to this site. I had read about the Cherry Blossom King and The King in Yellow, but your descripion–and that of Maria Benedict–making your final oblation is most heartening. I’m still trying to discern if I want to stumble along that same path. With Maria Benedict’s guidance I am now praying the hours and reading the Rule of Benedict. Tnx again to both of you.

  2. Pingback: God is Dead | Mundus Tranquillare Hic