Thursday, October 13, 2011

An Expiation

October 13, 2011

Thursday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation,through faith, by his blood, to prove his righteousness because of the forgiveness of sins previously committed, through the forbearance of God—to prove his righteousness in the present time, that he might be righteous and justify the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:23--26

Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter. Luke 11:52


O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because of thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen


Jesus continues dressing down the lawyers and Pharisees -- ultimately blaming them for the death of every prophet throughout history from Abel to Zechariah. And he concludes by saying that this generation -- their generation -- will pay for all the sins throughout history. Because he leaves out a key fact, the temple elders begin to plot against Jesus.

What is that key fact? Look no further than the first reading and that word there that probably has you scrambling for Merriam-Webster. Expiation.

Expiation. Atonement. Satisfaction. Having just come off the Hebrew celebration of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, we know that seeking forgiveness for their sins is important in the Jewish faith. These scholars of the law would have known that even if this incident did not take place so close to the Day of Atonement on the calendar.

The Day of Atonement is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. During this time, a Jew tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against God and against other human beings. My friend Neil posts a message like this on his Facebook page each year on Yom Kippur:

Please forgive me for any indiscretions, slights, anger, and pain I might have caused any of you. I forgive all of you for any indiscretions towards me. I love you all and may you have a meaningful fast in this Yom Kippur. Atonement is not a negative. It is "At-One-Ment" between ourselves today and what we strive to be, that brings us closer to the highest and strongest power in the universe. May we find that connection to the Supreme Energy.

What Jesus left out of his scolding of the scholars was that the WHOLE generation would not pay. He would personally bear the weight of all those sins on behalf of that generation and the generation before and the generation after and all generations. Jesus did not tell them that he would put the weight of those sins on his back and get nailed to them once and for all so that the redemption promised by God would be delivered through this one act of expiation to all people Jew and Gentile alike.

Had they known, then the plot might not have moved forward. Had the plot not moved forward, the atonement could not have happened.


Unlike the Jews, we Catholics can partake of atonement every day through the sacrament of confession. Not that many do that daily or even weekly. However, why not consider becoming a prodigal son or daughter and seek atonement at your next opportunity. Check the bulletin. The times for Penance are listed every week. After all, seeking forgiveness is not ONLY an Easter duty.