September 23, 2022

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Atonement, reconciliation are a part of many world religions

Fr. Rick GintherRosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is approaching on Sept. 25. It will culminate on Oct. 4-5 in “Yom Kippur,” the Day of Atonement.

For observant Jews, the new year is a time of personal and religious “new beginnings.”

The past year is reviewed. Promises made are examined. Those fulfilled are noted. Those unfulfilled require repentance.

For sins against God, atonement is sought. For sins against persons, reconciliation with the one offended is to be sought before atonement is possible.

And God provides that “at-one-ment,” so that the new year may unfold with blessings and peace rooted in the “at-one-ment.”

Rituals of atonement and reconciliation are an essential part of many world religions. Indeed, they are a part of most primitive cultures. (See The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature by William James.)

All modern world religions have reconciliation as a central focus. Some have specific periods, others a daily focus.

Islam has no specific period of reconciliation. It emphasizes a consistent focus upon living it.

The word islaah (Arabic for reconciliation) means “to make something prosper, to encourage someone to thrive,” as one does when they prepare the land for crops.

Islaah also means to make changes to something, to improve it, or to make peace between two people or parties who are disputing. This is to be a daily practice among Muslims.

Like Islam, Hinduism has no specific day of reconciliation.

Hindus focus upon karma. It is the sum of all things done, good and bad.

A Hindu is to seek forgiveness and understanding for “bad karma.” They are to learn from their mistakes. This is a divine characteristic.

In a sense, it provides “balance” to a Hindu’s karma. It moves them toward perfection.

Buddhism likewise has no specific day of reconciliation. Like Hindus, they focus upon balance from wrong to reconciliation.

Reconciliation is the act of two or more people making up. It involves forgiving, but they are not synonymous.

The Dalai Lama once stated: “All major religious traditions carry basically the same message; that is love, compassion and forgiveness. The important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.”

He also noted the danger in not forgiving or reconciling. This lacking festers into feelings of anger and hatred. “Anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

Jains have a holy week (8-10 days), called Paryushan. It is a festival of penance, endurance, sacrifice and forgiveness. The focus is on enriching one’s soul.

Believers ask for forgiveness from all living beings harmed by thoughts, words or physically. One is also to forgive others who may have wronged them.

The Baháʼí dedicate the last month (19 days in the “Badi calendar,” with 19 months in a year) to fasting.

The month is dedicated to atonement, prayer and meditation. Similar to other traditions, the physical fasting is but a symbol of spiritual restraint.

Baháʼí are enjoined to “account” for each day by reflecting on both spiritually positive and challenging situations. A believer begs for God’s forgiveness and endeavors to atone for their transgressions. Ultimately, this is meant to lead to improvement.

The Scripture most directly related to this practice is the following: “O SON OF BEING! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning …”

As you can see, reconciliation is very human and very divine.

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs. He is also the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis.)

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