by Father Mark Goldasich
This issue of the paper comes out on April 15, and we all know what that means: Yes, it’s time once again to celebrate Rubber Eraser Day.
What, you thought I was going to mention something about taxes? Not a chance. After all, this year, because of a local holiday in Washington, D.C., you don’t have to file until April 18. So, enjoy your weekend!
Let’s concentrate instead on Rubber Eraser Day. Although the Indians of Central and South America were the first to tap into the sap of wild rubber trees, we owe the creation of the eraser to a British chemist by the name of Joseph Priestly. In the late 1700s, he found that small bits of this sticky sap were very effective in rubbing out pencil marks. Hence, the term “rubber eraser” was born.
As you’ve no doubt figured out by now, it’s no coincidence that Rubber Eraser Day coincides with Income Tax Day. The connection, of course, is that presumably many people used erasers to remove mistakes they’d made while completing their tax returns. (This is probably a quaint, old-fashioned notion, given the fact that most people nowadays use something like TurboTax and file online.)
I still like the idea, though, of Rubber Eraser Day. It might even be a great teaching tool for faith. Let me explain.
In a container on my desk in the parish office is a special pencil. Because of its bright pink color, it’s usually the first one that people reach for when they want to write something down. Once they have it in their hands, however, they do a double take. You see, the pencil can’t be used for writing because it has an eraser on both ends.
It’s not defective; it’s made this way on purpose. The words written along its barrel say: “Life Without Jesus is Like This Pencil — No Point to It.” Although people get a laugh at first from this, they usually end up saying, “You know, that’s right!”
And it is right. That pencil — and Rubber Eraser Day — can be an appropriate lead-in to Holy Week. First of all, you really don’t want to “write” the story of your life without Jesus. In fact, you can’t. If you do try to write it on your own, you’ll just make mistakes — plenty of them. Imagine having a pencil without an eraser on top. The only thing you can do after making a mistake is to cross off your error. But even after doing so, the mistake is still visible to others. A sheet of paper loaded with all of these crossed-off words would look like a mess.
In some sense, that’s what sin does in our life. These moral mistakes make our lives, and the lives of others, messy. We need something — a Savior — to not only cross out our errors, but to erase them completely. That’s why I like my special pencil so much. Having an eraser on both ends is not a bad image of Jesus. He is always ready to forgive, to rub out our sins and have us begin again with a clean slate. And there’s no mistake so horrible that Jesus can’t remove it.
As Christians, we know that what Jesus has done for us, we’re called to do for others. Again, we can take a lesson from the eraser. If not used regularly, an eraser becomes hard and useless. So, too, if we don’t regularly practice forgiveness and compassion, we can become harsh and ineffective Christians.
As you walk through this coming week, consider carrying an eraser with you. Let it be a reminder, first and foremost, to be more forgiving of the mistakes of others — to not just cross out those errors, but erase them completely. Let the eraser also encourage you to clear out space in your schedule this week to come to church — not only on Palm Sunday and Easter — but also on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil as well.
Let’s be sure that we accompany Jesus on this special journey as he rubs out the most fearful and stubborn thing of all: death itself.