The Difficult Path of Unity between Jews and Christians
Sant 'Anastasia, Rome, 19/2/2010
by P. Carlo Colonna sj
Let us ask the Father for the spirit of wisdom and revelation
(This part, from the beginning to the quotation taken from James, was not read, but freely spoken during the opening prayer).
Let me begin with a prayer to the Father. It’s the prayer that the Apostle Paul addresses to the Father, when writing to the Ephesians: "I remember you in my prayers, so that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation and profound knowledge of Him and enlighten the eyes of your heart so that you may see to what great hope He has called you, what are the riches of glory contained in the inheritance of His saints and what is the surpassing greatness of His power towards us who believe, according to the effectiveness of its force and vigour" (Eph 1,16-19). We feel that Paul’s prayer is addressed to us. Paul is asking for the gift of the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation” on our behalf, so that we may achieve a deeper knowledge of God and of our Christian vocation, what I call “the gift of spiritual theology”, in which the Spirit penetrates into the depths of God, to reveal all things concerning God (1 Cor 2,10-13). This gift of "spiritual theology" allows us to enter into a deeper knowledge of God and of our Christian vocation. Because the eyes of our hearts are enlightened by the spirit of wisdom and revelation, we are able to enter the special domains of the Father’s Wisdom and also his plans concerning history and especially the Church and the world. This Wisdom, in the words of Jesus, is revealed by the Father of Glory to the simple, the humble, the little ones and is hidden from the wise in this world, who take pride in their ability to know and understand everything (Luke 11,26). It is, in Paul’s words, that "wisdom of God, which does not belong to this world and to its rulers, who are reduced to nothing ... wisdom, within the mystery that has remained hidden and that God established before all times for our glory" (1 Corinthians 2,6-8).
This gift of wisdom, called “spiritual theology”, includes many different aspects. It embraces, in Paul’s words, "the unfathomable riches of Christ and the fulfilment of the mystery hidden for ages in God, Creator of the universe" (Eph 3,8-12), which now takes place in the Church.
Tonight we want to ask the Father for the spirit of wisdom and revelation in order to penetrate, with his wisdom into the complicated relationship between Jews and Christians, a relationship which is a classical theological puzzle in the Church today and which cannot be enlightened except than by the spirit of wisdom that comes from above. Therefore let us ask for that spirit, with open hearts, trusting in the words spoken by Jesus: "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened" (Matthew 7,7). Let us ask without doubting that God may grant it to us, bearing in mind the saying of the Apostle James in his letter: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, that gives to all simply and unconditionally, and he will receive it. However, let him ask with faith, without hesitation, because he who hesitates is like a wave in the sea, moved and shaken by the wind. Let not such a man think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is an unsettled, unstable in all his actions" (James 1, 5-7).
I am a Jesuit priest. I live in Bari, where I am the spiritual assistant of the charismatic Covenant Community, the Community of Jesus, founded by Matthew Calisi. The community’s charism and ministry is a strong commitment to ecumenism. The Community of Jesus has held four meetings in Bari to promote the dialogue between Catholics and Messianic Jews, beginning in 2003, with the presence of some Messianic Jews from Israel and other parts of the world. I was deeply moved when I first heard a Messianic Jew preach the Gospel with force and conviction. It seemed as if the first apostles Peter and Paul, whom we may consider the first Messianic Jews, were standing in front of me. I abandoned the belief, common to modern mentality, which considers a Jew as one who does not believe in Jesus. I listened to many of their lectures and discovered the richness and theological depth of their faith in Jesus. Later I read some of their books, translated in Italian by the praiseworthy Bethlehem publishing house. One night I felt strongly inspired to compose a prayer for the illumination of Israel about Jesus as their Messiah. Then I was inspired to write some theological reflections after having gained knowledge over Messianic Jews. I wrote more and more until I realized that I had written a book which was published by publisher Faith and Culture, entitled: The Messianic Jews, a Sign of Times. Its aim is not to raise awareness about the phenomenon of Messianic Jews but to promote a theological dialogue with their theology. It is a new and original book promoting dialogue at a theological level between Catholics and messianic Jews which is non-existent in Italy at this moment.
About Jewish-Christian relations through centuries until today
After this introduction, let us now speak about the relations between Jews and Christians, Synagogue and Church, which in recent times, especially since Vatican II, have radically changed in comparison with the past twenty centuries of history. They have changed both in theological thought, which presides over this relationship, and in behaviour. The purpose of my speech tonight is to point out what this change is about and especially to show that in this change and in some prophetic events taking place in the world today between Christians and Jews, the heavenly Father is carrying out His plan in history looking more and more towards the day when Christ will return in glory to fulfill the Father's plan upon the world.
I'm speaking prophetically and as such let me ask you to put aside all human concerns about politics, diplomacy and ecclesiology when we consider the relations between Jews and Christians, because this would prevent us from seeing the simple and clear plan that the Father wishes to carry out in this relationship. We must devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the outcome of God’s plans if we are truly seeking His kingdom and His righteousness above all else. The Kingdom of God passes through these relationships. In present times which are open to the future, both Jews and Gentiles, must give a common testimony, as believers in one God and in his Messiah, Jesus Christ, to the Kingdom of God which has come, comes and shall come. This is why we have invoked the spirit of wisdom and revelation, which comes from the Father; for without this spirit, whatever concerns the relations between Jews and Christians would result in discourses of human wisdom, even if covered with quotations from the Bible and from documents of the Church.
Let's first look at the relations between Jews and Christians in 20 centuries of history up to Vatican II. I will be very brief because of the short time I have and because so many books have already been written about these issues. I will use two terms which are now very common: "anti-Christianity" for Jews and "anti-Judaism" for Christians. The anti-Christianity of the Jews began with the rejection of Christ and continues until today with all of Israel’s refusal to accept Jesus the Messiah. This rejection of Jesus the Messiah by the Jews continued through past centuries in a world totally dominated by Christianity, both in religious and civil contexts, leading the Jews to a state of extreme humiliation because of the anti-Judaism with which Christians responded to the anti-Christianity of the Jews. The result was a great degree of opposition and conflict in their relations which reached, at certain times, high levels of mutual hatred and consequent actions and behaviour. The anti-Christianity of the Jews did not have serious civil and religious consequences for Christians because the Jews were in a state of inferiority compared to the Christian majority, whereas anti-Judaism among Christians, in the government of many nations where Israel was scattered, has had serious consequences in their civil and religious lives. This is the reason why, in the Jubilee of 2000, as a sign of the changing relationships between Jews and Christians in our times, John Paul II’s desire was that the church should live a day of repentance and amendment for such heavy civil and religious consequences that fell upon the Jews because of the anti-Judaism in the past centuries (cf. Anti-Judaism, by Piero Stefani, Ed. Laterza, 2004).
Distinguishing between 'Anti-Judaism' and 'AntiSemitism'
While speaking about Christian “anti-Judaism” it is important to distinguish it from “Anti-Semitism”, a word used today as referring to the persecution of the Jews throughout all centuries, which culminated in destruction and death with the Shoah. This anti-Judaism originated in Christian contexts and was supported by a theology called “theology of substitution” or “replacement theology”, which I will talk about shortly. Anti-Semitism stems from paganism and believes in the extreme danger of the Jewish race, as such, to all mankind. From this conception follows the transition to the gas chambers of the Nazis to eliminate the Jewish race. On the contrary, religious anti-Judaism greatly appreciates the existence of the Jewish race, because it is God's instrument of revelation and salvation for all peoples, but it is against the Jews because they refused the Messiah, by crucifying Him, and because they have persevered in their rejection of Christ and Christians through centuries.
Hitler at first tried to involve the church in his anti-Semitism, calling for the anti-Judaism that in the past, the Church had shown towards the Jews. However Hitler’s anti-Semitism had very different roots and was not related to the anti-Judaism of the Church. There is no denying, however, that the Christian anti-Jewish mentality, still present in the Church at Hitler’s times, slowed down the reaction of Christians to his diabolical plan to destroy the Jews and favoured its deathly outcome.
We have now entered an era in which the mutual hatred and fighting have become the legacy of centuries past and no longer belong to the current relations between Jews and Christians. This is true at an official level, although the anti-Christian mentality on the part of the Jews, and anti-Judaism among Christians are still present at an unconscious spiritual level.
Some important historical changes have led to new relations between the Synagogue and the Church. We may say that the terrible events of the Holocaust have been the greatest explosion of anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish hatred, but they have also marked the end of this hatred, leading to a new era in the relationship between Jews and other nations, especially between Jews and Christians. Then the rise of democratic civilization, based on respect for fundamental human rights, and on the reconstruction of the State of Israel, inhabited and ruled by Jews, has given full civil dignity and democratic and religious freedom to the Jews, after having lived far from their homeland, deprived of all civil and religious rights for twenty centuries. These events are all a sign of the blessing from God who has returned to shine upon Israel, despite the well known present situation of conflict with the Palestinians.
We should consider this from a theological point of view rather than in terms of politics and human rights because it is part of God’s plan. God, the director and Lord of history, wants to reinsert all of Israel in the salvation accomplished by the Messiah of Israel, Jesus, the Son of God. God's plan is also for His Church, originated from Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, which still suffers and is disfigured by a deep wound, namely the absence of a substantial part and majority of Jews in her midst, that which St. Paul calls "all of Israel" (Romans 12:26).
The internal wounds in God’s Church
We all know that God’s Church suffers from deep interior wounds, first of all regarding holiness. Today’s scandals of pedophile priests must be regarded as an extremely serious wound to the sanctity of the Church, which should shine above all in the sanctity of its ministers.
Another injury is in the unity of the Church, because the faithful in Christ, coming in great majority from pagan nations, profess their faith in Christ and are not united in one Church but divided into many ecclesiastical regimes that, in past centuries, have excommunicated each other and fought with a hatred very similar to that which existed between Jews and Christians.
A lesser known third wound, to which we are so accustomed that we no longer consider it an injury, is the lack of completeness of members in the Church of God. This lack of fulfilment of members is not due to the refusal by many nations, especially in the past few centuries, to walk in the light of Jesus Messiah; it is caused by the absence of all of Israel as an essential constituent of the Church of God which, in its original nature, does not come from the earth but from heaven, as the manifestation of the Kingdom of God on earth and is designed to gather Jews and entire nations in her midst. “Totality” is not to be considered as a number but as an expression of a significant majority.
The "fullness of the Church" coincides with what St. Paul calls "the fullness of Christ" (Eph 1, 23), shown by the fact that those who are far off (Gentiles) and Jews (those who are near) can exchange Christ’s embrace of reconciliation and peace and stand before the Father in the same Spirit, to form one new man, Christ Jesus in all (Eph. 2,14-18).
The real human shepherds of the Church are preoccupied with the wounds and wrinkles of the Church, but not more so than the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in order to prepare the bride, the Church, for her encounter with the bridegroom, Christ. St. Paul reveals to us that Christ shed his blood for the Church in order to present her to Himself at His wedding with her "glorious, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5, 27).
The Spirit of Christ, therefore, is constantly working to remove these wounds from the bleeding Church along with the wrinkles of old age that disfigure its divine beauty, which must shine. Through the ecumenical movement, in its spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral areas, the Holy Spirit is leading the Church of the Gentiles to shine by the divine note of unity in faith and love of all her children. But the Spirit is blowing in present times to bring the Church of God to its fullness, making sure that all of Israel may be reinserted in its holy root which is the faith of Abraham in Jesus the Messiah and Son of God.
To this purpose a great renewal is taking place in the Church today not only with regard to pastoral approaches, but also in theological thought, in the way of considering the relationship between Jews and Christians, synagogue and church. I would now like to talk to you about this.
Concerning this aspect, we have a wonderful teacher in St. Paul, in Romans Chapters 9-10-11 where he shows the divine contemplation that he had of God's plan concerning the refusal of the Messiah Jesus by his people, and the welcoming of the Gospel by the pagan nations and the following reinsertion in the faith in Jesus the Messiah of all of Israel at the end of time, before the return of Christ.
Theology of substitution or replacement theology
Christian theologians, beginning with the Fathers to the present day, have always been inspired by these pages, but because of evident historical contingencies, they have developed what I call "historical theologies" concerning Jewish - Christian relations that are less spiritual and mainly dictated by the need to interpret the events of the history of salvation as it unfolded through the ages. The "historical theology" by which the Church has interpreted Jewish-Christian, Synagogue-Church relations, until the Second Vatican Council and has adjusted accordingly, is called "replacement theology" or substitution theology. It has imposed itself since the post-Apostolic and Patristic times up to the twentieth century. Currently, this theology has been officially abandoned by the Church thanks to "Nostra Aetate", a Vatican II document about the Church’s new way of considering the Jewish religion and the Jews themselves.
The basic statement of "replacement theology" is that God, because of unbelief in Jesus the Messiah by the mass of the Jews, has broken all relations with Israel. Israel is no longer the "people of God," it has lost the election to the covenant with God based on His promises, and consequently, its status as people of God has been attributed to the Church of Christ which, being formed totally by pagans, manifested itself as the "Church of pagans." Over time the Church gradually lost its original, Jewish distinctive features. The only sign of this origin was the persistence, in the Church of pagans, of the faith in God's revelation in the Old Testament. But the Old Testament was increasingly seen only as a preparation and prefiguration of the New Testament and therefore lacking in value because not enlightened by the New Testament. In all other aspects, the "Church of pagans" of the New Testament fully replaced the temple and the synagogue of the Jews in the Old Testament.
The Jews’ condition of servitude and humiliation in the territories subject to Christian domination was interpreted as proof of their loss of dignity as the people of God. All the blessings of God in the Old Testament regarding the future of God's people had been accomplished in the Church of the Gentiles, and all the promised curses were becoming true for Israel because of its disbelief. Paul's prophecy about the reintroduction of Jews into the faith in Christ had not yet been fulfilled but this event was interpreted as an inclusion of Jews within the Church of the Gentiles, thought of as the new and true Israel. However, this integration would not change the nature of the new people of God, founded on the Gentiles rather than on the Jews. In short, the salvation of the world would no longer come from the Jews, but from the Gentiles.
I do not have time to demonstrate the limits and distortions of this "replacement theology" and how it is well consistent with the anti-Judaism of the Church in the past centuries. Today this "theology" has been abandoned and another type of theology is being developed, which is more respectful of what the Scripture says of God's plan about the call to salvation in Jesus Christ addressed to Jews and Gentiles. I call it "theology of grafting (insertion) and re-grafting", which a messianic Jew today, David Stern, calls the "theology of the olive tree" (David H. Stern, Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel, Ed Beth-lehem, p. 27).
The "theology of grafting and re-grafting” (or insertion and reinsertion) goes back to Paul in his Letter to the Romans where the Apostle does not consider the Church of Gentiles as a new people of God set against unbelieving Israel, or destined to replace and remove Israel from any divine election, but as a people grafted into the root of all-holy Israel, whose election by God to be His people remains, although a considerable part of Jews (the branches) were severed from their roots because of disbelief. Although these branches have been cut off, God is planning in His heart to reinsert "all of Israel" into its natural roots and this will come to be when all of Israel will massively adhere to Jesus the Messiah (Rom. 11:16-24). The messianic community is the significant beginning of this ingathering of “all of Israel” towards the Messiah.
In light of this revealed vision, the only People of God, unique in the same way as God is unique, is made up of three parts: the first part is the holy root, consisting of Abraham's faith in the Messiah of God, Jesus Christ, and of Jesus with his apostles; the second part includes believers in this faith, coming mostly from pagan nations; from these roots God cut the natural branches, the unbelieving Jews, who were, however, the most numerous part of Israel as a people; the third part of God’s Church also includes Israel within its womb, the incredulous Israel who has not lost the title of "people of God" because of its unbelief and is therefore part of the Church of God although it plays the role of the prodigal son in the parable, who left and would not follow his Father’s will.
However, he is still the son and his Father is anxiously waiting to embrace him again on his return. Because of this election and the mercy that God is reserving for Israel, Israel is destined to be reintroduced into its connatural holy root, based on Abraham's faith in Jesus the Messiah, in the last times that foreshadow Christ's glorious return.
(What follows is a clarification, mentioned during the speech, that I want to deal with now because, in my opinion, it is an important point for a more precise understanding of the relationship between incredulous Israel and the Church considered from a theological point of view.)
(To this end, we must be clear about two fundamental truths. The first is this: it is a theological absurdity to believe in the existence of "two peoples of God”, one based on the acknowledgement and the other on the refusal of Jesus. The recognition of Israel as God's people, with whom God has never broken His alliance, who enjoys the full dignity of the people of God to the same extent as the Church, raises the theological problem of the simultaneous existence of two peoples of God, which differ at the root with regard to faith in Jesus the Messiah. Only one of the two can be the people of God. The theology of substitution has solved this dilemma, by stating that only the Church and not Israel is God's people. On the other hand, incredulous Israel has not identified the Church with the true people of God, by not recognizing Jesus as Messiah.
Today the church says that Israel is also God's people; but a question arises from this assertion: how can there be two peoples of God, which differ at the root, while the Scripture always speaks of only one people of God? Here is a common response that is often given today: there is only one people of God, because its holy root is one both for unbelieving Jews and for Christians. This root consists in the calling of Abraham. Along the way, however, at the crossing with the Messiah, God's people were divided in two: unbelieving Israel and the Church of believers in Jesus. It is a serious wound to the unity of God's people that God tolerates only because of His historical plans concerning the salvation of nations. This answer is true, but I believe we should clearly explain what identity incredulous Israel will assume before it accepts the Messiah Jesus. This is my answer: it will maintain the look of God's people who was not rejected or accursed but was cut off from its sacred roots, who now lives in its current religious institutions as true people of God, although unbelieving and waiting for God, in His mercy, to re-graft Israel in its root.
A second theological truth may be useful to better understand this situation. The Church, considered as God's people, is not defined primarily in a sociological way as consisting of Jews or Gentiles or Jews and Gentiles united together by faith in Christ. The Church does not come primarily from earth but from heaven, it is the heavenly Jerusalem which John saw in his vision in the Apocalypse, that descends from heaven and towards which all the nations of the world direct themselves, destined to welcome all of Israel and all nations within it. The kairòs of God, in which the heavenly Jerusalem, the Church of God has made itself manifest among nations, is the Pentecost of Jerusalem, in which the Holy Spirit has come down on Mount Zion, where Christ's apostles were gathered in the supper room, and has made Mount Zion “the mother of the peoples of the world”, called to Messianic salvation. At that moment Mount Zion made itself known as the Church of God and of Jesus, their Messiah, for all nations on earth, first for all the Jews, then for the totality of nations. This Church began its historical manifestation on earth with the calling of Abraham and the promises of blessings to all nations given by God to the patriarch, but it established itself in the world at the Pentecost of the apostles in Jerusalem. By virtue of its birth from Abraham, Israel began to be part of the church from that time, waiting for the Messiah to rise from its womb and to receive, by salvation through the Messiah, the "final grafting" in its root, which was never accomplished because of disbelief. Instead of being "definitely grafted" it was cut from its ancient roots, but without losing its election as people of God called to salvation. It is a part of this Church of God, manifested at Pentecost, similar to the prodigal son in the parable of the Gospel, living in a spiritual place far from his Father’s house, the Church, because it has moved away from it by its own will, by not believing in the Messiah. God’s promise to pour great mercy over Israel shines above this people who will be reinserted in its roots by receiving illumination about the Messiah. Then the fullness of the vocation to be the people of God ever since the beginning of history will shine.)
The first new vision deriving from the theology of grafting and re-grafting
It is important to understand the difference between "replacement theology" and the "theology of the grafting and re-grafting" through which we can judge the relationship existing between Jews and Christians coming from the Gentiles.
"Replacement theology" has entered the Church as the theological heart of anti-Judaism, which is not only a practical attitude, but is supported by a theological mindset. Abandonment of this theological mentality is also the abandonment of the main motivations that encourage anti-Jewish sentiment. Conversely, the theology of grafting and re-grafting, if deeply and correctly understood, develops interesting and completely new theological and pastoral visions as compared to the results of "replacement theology". I will only mention two.
The first and most exciting vision is the contemplation of God's mercy, what we now call "The Divine Mercy," as the very good, beautiful and shining source of the whole movement of the Spirit which leads to the grafting of the Gentiles in the holy root of Abraham’s faith and to the reinsertion of its natural branches, which are "all of Israel". St. Paul in his letters often declares that God’s act of salvation towards humanity, all locked up in sin, is a manifestation of his boundless love for mankind and that we are saved by his great mercy, whereas we were, by nature, quite deserving of wrath and punishment.
This vision of God's mercy, which is poured out upon all mankind, is especially present in Paul when he speaks about God’s relationship with both Gentiles and Jews. I will read the text, but let us listen to his words with our heart rather than with our mind, in order to understand the very strong flow of God's mercy through this passage: "As you (pagans) have once been disobedient to God and have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient because of the mercy that you received, so that they too, may obtain mercy. God has enclosed everyone in disobedience in order to be merciful to all" (Rom 11,30-32).
In this very dense passage, the Divine Mercy which shines before mankind’s disobedience is mentioned for four times. It shows that both pagans and Jews benefit from Divine Mercy, although at different times, because both were disobedient to God. We should now shed tears of deep emotion before God’s unique and superabundant mercy that comes to save us.
The pagans, who first experienced God's mercy towards their disobedience, should be aware of this and therefore be ready to show the same mercy towards Jews, who were disobedient to the Gospel, as a sign that God has also reserved times of mercy, still detained, for Jews, despite their disobedience. With regard to this, I would like to quote the beautiful words of a messianic Jew, David Stern, regarding the manifestation of mercy that Christians coming from the Gentiles must offer to still unbelieving Jews:
"This will be the mercy that God has given them, that Gentiles will bring - as canals – to the Jews. However Sha'ul (Paul) is not asking to stand by and passively observe the way in which God will show his mercy to the Jews. Rather, he is imploring the Gentile Christians to actively show mercy upon the Jews now. God demands an active participation in his plan for salvation. This is the only thing that can touch their hearts and make the non saved Jews jealous of Christians. Nothing else can do it! It’s too bad that so few have tried to do it!" (David H. Stern, op.cit., p. 84).
Paul’s warning to the nations, who have come to know the Gospel in the past centuries, is real and actual. He tells them not to take pride in themselves because they have received God's mercy and have been grafted onto the Abrahamic roots, while God has made room for them by cutting the natural branches of Abraham, the unbelievers in the Gospel. Paul warns them that God’s severity is also reserved for the nations if they do not persevere in love for the Gospel. Unfortunately, the pride of the Gentiles before the Gospel and against the Jews along the centuries has shown itself in the macroscopic forms of anti-Judaism and anti-semitism, accompanied by the phenomenon of great apostasy from the faith perpetrated in the name of the most radical Atheism, enemy of the faith.
Currently the world of pagan nations cannot rejoice for having embraced the faith in early times, while the Jews were excluded. It has greatly sinned before God and experienced His severity similarly to the unbelieving Jews. We, the Gentile nations, are in need of great mercy as much as the Jews who do not believe in the Gospel, if we still want to exist and avoid being excluded from salvation through the Gospel, although we bear the Christian roots of Europe. This is a very important theme that I am not carrying further, because I want to give space to another equally important vision which is the result of the "theology of the grafting and re-grafting."
(At this point I expressed my theological and prophetical opinion. I think the events of World War II and the Holocaust have shown the part of God's plan for history, which is called “the end of the time of nations” and “the beginning of the time of Israel”. The nations have expressed the utmost of their great iniquity with the “great apostasy” of faith in the Messiah of God and with Nazi anti-Semitism. That is why God has decreed “the end of the time of nations” and disclosed the “time of Israel” with the reconstruction of the State of Israel and the beginning of the enlightenment of the Jews about Jesus the Messiah, who will bring all of Israel to adhere to the Messiah according to Paul’s prophecy. By contrast, the mystery of iniquity has continued within the Nations after the Second World War with atheistic communism and the Cultural Revolution of '68, which has carried out the secularization and de-Christianization of the nations, once based on a spiritual Christian regime. Currently in Italy atheist groups such as UAAR successfully carry out a practice known as "unbaptism" ("Sbattezzo"), whereas more and more Jews in the world hasten to receive "baptism in Jesus Christ." This too is a sign of times! These remarks are part of a prophetic vision of history according to the Sacred Scriptures, and should be judged by other prophets, not by historians and theologians who do not judge history in a prophetic way, but only by human standards).
A second vision deriving from the theology of grafting and re-grafting
This second vision regards the testimony to the Name of God who has revealed Himself, that both Jews and Christians are called to give today in a world dominated by religious relativism and by increasing and radical secularization and atheism. Because of the grafting of the Gentiles become Christians, on the holy root of Abraham's faith in Jesus the Messiah, the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not the God of Greek philosophers or of religious pagan myths, shines over all the nations. We can say that this God, the one and only, true, existing God, no one besides Him bears the name of God, has a Jewish face, as Jesus, Mary and the first apostles were Jewish too. God, who has become the God of nations through faith in Christ, is also the God of the Jews, through the conversion of nations to Christ. This is beyond dispute, inasmuch as for the Church of the Gentiles, with twenty centuries of history behind it, it is essential to keep the faith in God's revelation in the Old Testament; otherwise it would not know which God to invoke and to attribute the salvation of mankind, and there would be no God to adore and to give thanks.
The rejection of Jesus the Messiah by Israel has caused negative consequences in the reception of the Name of God by the pagan nations that are especially evident today. The Church of the Gentiles has been alone through the centuries, to bear witness to the revealed Name of God before the nations; it has done without the help that it might have received from the deep love and high theology that Jews have always shown to the revealed name of God, who first revealed Himself to them. We might say that the Jews are teachers for the Gentiles and in this respect, they are, truly our elder brothers.
During the early centuries when the Gospel, as the first knight of the Apocalypse, accomplished continuous victories among the nations, the Church did not suffer from the lack of Jewish testimony to the revealed Holy Name of God. But a first crisis was brought about by the rise of Islamism, which opposed a new name of God to the one elevated by Christians. Muhammad not only assaulted the God of Christians but also the God of Jews who disbelieved the Gospel. Jews and Christians should have borne witness together to the true name of God revealed, but this did not happen because of the Jews’ disbelief in Jesus the Messiah.
(At this point I spoke out a new concept concerning the adoration of God. To better understand it, I said that the difference between Christians, Jews and Muslims is sometimes erroneously given in this way: Muslims worship Allah, the Jews YHWH (Adonai) and Christians worship Jesus. This is true for Muslims and Jews, but not for Christians. Although Christians worship Jesus because He is the Son of God and recognize His divinity, we Christians primarily reserve worship to the Father of Jesus, to the YHWH of the Jews, who is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who is also the God of Jesus Christ and Christians. In other words, Christians worship God as the Holy Trinity, or the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, as can be seen in the liturgy of the Church, in the Holy Mass. The fact that Catholics, especially in popular devotion, primarily address themselves through prayer to Jesus and Mary and little to the Father, gives the impression that they mainly worship Jesus and are not very much concerned with worshipping, thanking, blessing and invoking the Father, who has the primacy in the articles of faith and adoration. In the eyes of the Protestants, then, we give the impression of worshipping Mary because of the abundant role that the invocation of Mary has in our worship. This gives rise to a pastoral rather than theological problem, the need to educate Catholics to a more direct relationship with the Father, according to what is said in the New Testament and the great tradition of the Fathers and the Liturgy of the Church).
Today we know that there is a frightening lack of knowledge of God in contemporary culture, determined by the invasion of the atheistic mindset especially from the nineteenth century onwards. With the advent of the scientistic, illuministic, materialistic mentality in contemporary times, the Church of the Gentiles has found itself increasingly weak and unable to give witness to the revealed name of God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the only God of the universe and of nations. These nations, seduced by Satan, the great deceiver of nations, committed what St. Paul calls "the great apostasy" (2 Thess 2,3), produced by the action of atheism in a world of wicked men, who rose above and against all things that in some way bore the name of God.
In this ever-increasing detachment from the revealed name of God in Western thought, the true and living God of the universe, who gives life to all, has increasingly lost all reference to His first revelation to the Jews and has become the Great Architect of Masonic thought, the natural God of the Deists, the great Non-Existing One, continually fought against by contemporary, atheistic thought and action. Today, in the domain of secular thought, the question of the existence of God is central to the debate between science and faith. But from this point of view, it doesn’t matter if any God, whom even science can give witness to, is precisely the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
From a strictly religious point of view, we are in an age of religious relativism, where every religion claims its right to exist. In this context, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob struggles to assert Himself as the only really existing God and to be recognized as such. Yet every day in its Liturgy, the Church of God invokes and worships the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by the name of our Father in heaven, and professes that there is no other God than Him. But in this confession the Church is alone before an increasingly secularized world, ever more unbelieving, tempted to put the God of the Church on the same level as other deities claimed by men.
In my opinion, today’s Church is desperately in need of a testimony to the revealed Name of God by the Jews, who might be called: “The people of the Name”, because this people and only this people has been given the mission of bringing the to the world the ineffable name of YHWH God, blessed be His Holy Name for ever and ever. Amen.
We, Christians coming from the Gentiles, have been inserted in the Jews' mission, but we need to be supported by their energy and faith in the holy Name of God; this will happen when the majority of Jews will be reinserted in their holy root through faith in Jesus Christ the son of Abraham, the son of God. At that point, closely united and helping each other with the gifts of the Spirit that God will give us so that we can give testimony to Him, we will bear effective witness to the living God and to His next coming to the world with the return of Jesus Christ in glory. Then our common witness will truly be a hope for the world and will give way to new and original manifestations of God among humanity, reconciled by His Name and not by political agreements.
A vision of the Messianic Jew Julia Blum
Let me conclude these thoughts that lend themselves to great developments both in theology and in pastoral practice with a vision of spiritual theology given today by Julia Blum, a Messianic Jew.
I have personally heard Julia Blum and I have read her wonderful book, "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross," where she abundantly displays her contemplative vision, which I consider a true gift of the Spirit for today's times. Julia, aided by the Spirit, has penetrated into the heart of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who appears to Christians as the "Heart of Jesus," and has captured all of God’s throbs of love for Israel, proving that, despite the severity shown towards Him through the centuries, He still has a heart full of love and mercy. Julia Blum accurately examines the figure of Abraham, when he had to harden his heart in order to sacrifice his son Isaac to God, and especially the figure of Joseph the Jew, who had to harden his heart with his brothers and tortured them so that they would recognize their sin, but his heart throbbed with love for them and with the desire to be recognized and re-embrace them. God has revealed to Julia in a personal and intimate way, how much He loves His people and how the time is nearing when He will bestow upon His people His great mercy, embracing them in the love of the Messiah, revealed to them at last.
The fact that Julia Blum has had this vision in our days is connected to the whole movement of the Spirit which is currently underway both in the Christian world with the rejection of anti-Judaism by the Church and in the Jewish world with an ever growing number of Jews returning to the embrace their elder brother, Jesus of Nazareth, whom they recognize as their Messiah.
This movement has taken the name of the "Messianic Jewish Movement", because of the outpouring of the spirit of prophecy, which has born witness to Jesus among the Jews in recent decades. The Church, that has set aside its anti-Judaism and is showing more and more respect and affection for the Jews, is well represented by Joseph, a symbol of the real head of the Church who is not the pope in office, his vicar, but Christ himself when Joseph lays his anger aside and longs to be recognized by his brothers. Israel is going faster than ever before in history in accepting Jesus as Messiah, although this process is still partial in the existence of all of Israel. This is true because of God's action and not because of coercion by the dominant church.
We have truly entered a new phase in the history of the Church and in the accomplishment of God's plan in time. All this requires us to intensify our prayers and I am very happy about what is happening in this Basilica during this prayer dedicated to the enlightening of Israel. But that’s not enough. It is important that we transform our mentality in order to understand God’s plans in the present and work intensely to carry them out. By doing so we are waiting and living as zealous servants, but we are also hastening the time of Jesus'return in glory, to whom we give all honour and glory for ever. Amen.
P. Carlo Colonna s.j.