Wednesday, April 9, 2014


To say that the relationship between Christians and Jews has been checkered is a colossal understatement.  But especially in Holy Week we need to examine our thought-patterns, our prejudices, and our desires to be faithful to Jesus Christ while rejecting all forms of bigotry (of which, sadly, our Faith has had a too-long history).
In the middle of the 16th century Pope Paul IV ordered all Jews in Rome to be confined in a ghetto—they were free to move about during the day, but the ghetto was locked at night.  They were also forced on Sundays to attend Christian sermons.
Was this offensive?  Surely.  Was it well-intentioned?  Probably.  Was it “effective”?  Hardly.  Was it cruel?  Absolutely.  Then why was it done?
Catholics (and other Christians, by the way) regarded Jews not only as unbelievers but as obstinate in their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah.  Millennialists saw this rejection as a barrier to the breaking in of the new order (much, honestly, as Orthodox Jews see any “land for peace” arrangement in Israel as inhibiting the coming of the Messianic era—the Messiah can only come when the old kingdom is fully restored).  If Jews in sufficient quantities could be “converted” by means of obligatory preaching and perhaps even forced baptisms, so much the better—the Kingdom would thereby be advanced (and the Jews’ souls would be saved).
Meanwhile, Jews were seen as good enough to engage in professions that Christians saw as necessary for their economic well-being, yet sinful enough that they should never be part of, themselves:  money-lending (think Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, and re-read his speech in Act III, scene 1, lines 52ff.).
We have too easily grasped, as Christians, the theology (born of polemic bred in anger) from the Gospels of Matthew and John especially, that we and Jews should be antagonists; we have never bothered, until recently, to pay sufficient attention to the argumentation of St Paul (also a Jew and a Pharisee) in Romans 9-11, that God would never reject His Chosen People.  Punish them?  Yes; but never reject them.  And God will indeed also punish His new “Chosen People” (Christians/Catholics); but God will not reject those whom He loves—Christians or Jews.
Can we (Christians and Jews) be two branches on the same Vine in the vineyard of the LORD?  St Paul thought so; why should we think any less?  The cry, echoing after the Shoah of Nazi Germany, is “Never again!”  Should we not join our elder brothers and sisters in this cry?
When Christians confronted heretics called Cathars or Albigensians in southern France in the 12th century, one horrible massacre was justified by the cry: “Kill them all!  God will recognize His own!”  It’s time to reverse this cry of hate and shout together:  “Save them all!  God will recognize His own!” 
Without Abraham, “our Father in Faith,” where would we be, spiritually?  That in itself should be more than enough reason (as soon-to-be St John Paul II thought) to respect and honor our elder brothers and sisters in covenant with the Lord.
Happy Holy Week to all; blessed Passover to all.  May your Kingdom come:  for all of us.

1 comment:

  1. Just wondering: All those who followed the dictates of, for example, Pope Paul VI, were not liable for wrong-doing, although their attitudes have lingered through succeeding generations. Is this not so?