Yom Kippur begins tonight for our Jewish brothers and sisters, but perhaps those of us who are not Jews need this day even more. The idea of atonement, making reparations or amendments for our wrongs is at the heart of spiritual experience. St. Ignatius reminds us of this during the Examen that we ask the Holy Spirit to help us look at our lives without our own biases and preconceived notions that go along with them all too often.
But can we do that? That takes a lot of humility. Being able to admit that we are wrong and clearly seeing where we didn’t listen, or didn’t honor someone’s voice, or where we reacted poorly, or misinterpreted what someone else said. Essentially, we all need to look deeply to see how we cooperate with evil and sometimes how evil cooperates with us.
An easy example for me to express this stems from the fact that I often like to be liked. So harmony is often important to me in relationships. When someone is ticked at me, or vice-versa, I’m not happy. But often, I’m unwilling to hash it out instantly because I’m afraid of being hurt or that someone else won’t take my sentiments as intended, or that it will just be an exercise in futility because they couldn’t possibly understand what I mean. I’ve come a long way in starting not with what I hope will be the outcome that I’d most like and instead, looking deeply within myself to see what role am I playing here. When something hurtful happened, how did I react to that and what role did I play in causing it perhaps? Admitting where I was at fault and understanding “the other party” is key to also really understanding how I was hurt in the situation and makes it easier to let go of hurt. Besides, I can only control what I can do, not what I hope someone else does or doesn’t. Atonement centers me on that squarely.
Today, let us all take some time to examine our lives, especially those very hurtful times for us where harmony takes a back seat. As we look deeply, may we find that atonement leads us to freedom, the freedom for us to be mastered by our selfishness and rather be led towards love.
A blessed Yom Kippur.