We Catholics in New York enjoy the “high holy days” of our Jewish neighbors, and are inspired by the seriousness and sincerity with which they approach their feasts. Join me in wishing them God’s blessings on their special days!
They began their observance last week with Roshashana, the Jewish New Year, and will conclude evening and tomorrow with Yom Kippur, the great Day of Atonement.
The message of their celebrations, if I understand it correctly, is one of spiritual renewal, fresh starts, and repentance. Our Jewish friends pray, fast, reflect, resolve, ask God to forgive their sins as they repent, and start anew with festive meals and gatherings with family and friends!
Not bad at all!
They are only being faithful to their Scriptures. God so often coaxed His Chosen People, “Come back to me with all your heart!” How is that done? God tells us: “A humble, contrite heart I will not spurn.”
There it is again: repentance!
God the Son learned from his Father, because Jesus made repentance the core of His invitation to His followers.
What’s that mean? Simply put, it means turning away from sin and turning to the Person, message, salvation, and call to discipleship of Jesus.
We Catholics used to be constantly aware of this repentance!
Reminisce with me . . .
. . . An examination of conscience and act of contrition prior to falling asleep at night;
. . . frequent confession;
. . . Friday abstinence from meat as an act of penance for our sins, in union with our Lord’s death on that Friday called “good.”;
. . . “Ember Days” – - remember! – - at the change of each season, with fasting and the invitation to the Sacrament of Reconciliation;
. . . Fasting on the vigil of holy days, so we could feast all the better on the day itself;
. . . Never receiving the Eucharist if conscious of grave sin, without first approaching the Sacrament of Penance;
. . . First Friday union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus through confession and Mass;
. . . First Saturday Mass and rosary in response to our Lady’s call at Fatima to conversion of heart and repentance;
. . . Fasting from food at least three hours before Holy Communion;
. . . And, of course, the season of Lent, intended as a forty-day Yom Kippur.
Am I on the wrong track in thinking that most of this is now gone?
Now, I admit, customs, traditions, practices change. Often it’s good when they do.
What can’t change is the call to repentance and conversion of heart at the very core of the Jewish-Christian Scriptures, and of our traditions. The how we respond might change; that we do penance cannot change.
Our Jewish friends have not forgotten about repentance and conversion of heart, as is so obvious in New York these “high holy days.”
Have we Catholics forgotten it?