Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Leviticus 23:1.4-11.15-16.27.34b-37; Matthew 13:54-58)
Jews celebrate two feast days in September or early October that often escape our attention. On the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar they celebrate Rosh Hashanah, their New Year. On this day the shofar or ram’s horn is blown, literally as a wake up call to the people. The wild sound reminds everyone that the Day of Judgment is coming when all have to give account for the good and evil we have done. It is as festive a day as Christmas with different kinds of special foods – fruits, honey, and the round loaf of bread symbolizing the beginning of another year.
Ten days afterward is the holiest day of the Jewish year Yom Kippur, which the reading from Leviticus refers to as the Day of Atonement. Traditionally it is thought of as the day Moses finished his forty day conference with God and brought the second set of the Commandments to the people. Seeing the golden calf, he destroyed the idol and had the people repent. Granted forgiveness, Jews to this day remember the event with this day of repentance for sins. It is also a day of heightened fasting and prayer. Most every Jew attends a synagogue service on Yom Kippur.
Christians will please Jewish acquaintances by wishing them a happy New Year on Rosh Hashanah and a blessed Yom Kippur. But these days should have more meaning for us than improving our relationships with modern Jews. We should recall how Jesus was a Jew as the gospel today makes evident. Jews are also God’s chosen people whom we have to thank for bringing us a Savior.