For five minutes before typing class would start on timed typing test day, many students would practice to loosen up the old fingers. So, normally it was quite noisy in the classroom as everyone got in there and waited for the bell to ring. I wasn’t just loosening up my fingers. I was pre-typing the timed paragraph we would use for the timed writing test. I’d get the info from a friend who had the class earlier that morning and start my test way before everyone else. I reasoned it was okay because I’d never need to type! I was going to be a construction electrician, like my dad. It wouldn’t hurt anybody and I would type just enough to maintain a low B average so I could stay on the Honor Roll. I cheated through a whole semester or two of that class and had a guilty conscience about it for a long time. Now, as I key this message every day, I peck it into my IPad with regret that I key so slow and ridiculously, never putting forth the effort to learn the correct mechanics of typing. Now I just reason that it’s too hard to teach this old dog, new tricks….
Today’s readings (of LV 25:1, 8–17, MT 14:1–12), Leviticus talks about the Day of Atonement leading into the Jubilee Year (one of every 50 years) for the Israelites, when land would revert back to the original families it had been deeded to, people sold into slavery were liberated and all would be considered sacred. In our Gospel, Herod has John the Baptist beheaded to save face after promising more than he should have for a provocative dance. He feels distressed (guilty or remorseful), knowing he was out of line.
We Catholics get a bad rap, particularly our mothers, for “Catholic guilt”. Guilt plays an important part in our spiritual and moral lives. It acts as a barometer for our actions and intent. It’s actual purpose to to lead us back to God and good behavior, not just make us feel bad about ourselves. When all we do is carry it around like an overloaded backpack, that is dysfunction. The Day of Atonement happens to us all when our bad behavior, the consequences of it and our guilt all collide. For me, that usually happens in Reconciliation, or before as I prepare for the Sacrament. When I am truly repentant for my sins, I feel guilt and I recognize the separation I have from intimacy with my Lord. Then, like in Leviticus, the Jubilee comes, when God sets me free from guilt and shame with His mercy and forgiveness. Knowing that these days of atonement frequently happen in my life, helps me to make better choices… ones that are more pleasing to Christ. Life becomes sacred again, a worthy gift to God. Do you have some guilt that is needling you? Is it positive guilt that can help you reconcile with God and someone you hurt or just leftover, dysfunctional junk? Take a few minutes to really think about it. Peace and All Good, my friends!