Three novelties regarding the Church, modern Israel and Judaism

Fr. Carlo Colonna, sjFirst novelty regarding the Church:  There is no doubt that in our own day the Spirit is calling the Christians from the Church of the Gentiles to rediscover the Hebrew roots of their faith in God and in Christ, the Messianism of Christ as Judaic Messianism, God’s irrevocable election of the Jewish people, and to declare outdated the theology of substitution wherewith the Church unjustly attributed to itself all the divine prerogatives of Israel. All this points to a drawing near of the Church to the Jewish people from a religious point of view, and a more positive evaluation of their place in the divine Plan of salvation. However all this concerns the inherent religious dimension both of the Church and of Israel as communities of faith and of worship.

Second novelty regarding Israel:  At the same time, the establishment of the State of Israel from 1947 onward gave rise to a new way of understanding "Israel", Israel as a Nation and State with Judaic roots, but with a secular and democratic political regime.  Because of the Israeli-Palestinian political conflict, the Church and Israel as a Nation and State have increasingly grown apart. In this situation the Church in the Holy Land and in the Arab world has repeatedly declared itself against the Israeli policies and in favour of the Palestinians. It suffices to remember what happened in the last Synod of the Middle-East bishops. Ariel’s letter to the Catholic Church in the Holy Land openly denounces this political anti-Judaism of the Church, which is thoroughly pro-Palestinian and abstains itself from saying one single positive thing, however small, about the religious Israel.

Third novelty regarding Judaism:  There is also a third phenomenon that goes under the name of Israel. It is a new type of Judaism, Messianic Judaism, born in 1967 in the Holy Land and overseas, that has continuously strengthened itself in the Jewish world, striving to assert itself as a legitimate type of Judaism.  Messianic Judaism engages, in a different way, in the dialogue with the Christian Church, because there is a profound spiritual connection between Messianic Judaism and the Church, namely the faith in Jesus the Messiah and the willingness to do His will, which includes the will that all those who believe in Him be one.

These three phenomena are closely related to each other. It is a normal thing that Christians and Jews, involved in mutual relations, are more sensitive to particular issues, and see the various issues in light of the relation which is the most important to them.

Two erroneous ideological interpretations of Israel

We can identify a number of extreme positions, which, in my opinion, are against the will of God and conform more to absolutistic "human ideologies" or "divine ideologies".

Here I will mention two, opposed to each other. The first is the "thoroughly human ideology", very similar to the "theology of liberation" in Latin America, which views Israel only from a political point of view, as a present State and Nation, which with its military power and economic power dominates over the Palestinians, has an unjust dominion over the Holy Land and hence should be opposed by means of war. Unless this struggle is first carried out, any consideration of Israel from a religious point of view is of no use whatsoever. This position on a theological level is favored by the theology of substitution, according to which the present Israel, not believing in Jesus, is not an heir of the religious values of its former tradition, which is now carried on by the Christian Church.

At the other extreme we find the "divine ideology", according to which, Israel, although it has rejected Jesus the Messiah, is the repository of the divine promises which are still valid today.  Hence the blessing of God always shines upon Israel and has recently become manifest through the return of Israel as a nation into the Land God gave to its fathers. In the light of this theology which holds that the divine blessing on Israel has never been withdrawn, the rejection of Messiah, still persisting after 2000 years, is deemed but a small venial sin, which does no great harm to Israel, because it is under the divine blessing of election. The message of this divine ideology regarding Israel is that if at present the pagan peoples want to be blessed by God, they must in turn bless Israel and fully support its presence in the Holy Land - and this no matter whether Israel accepts the Messiah or not. In my opinion this position leads to an "idolatry of Israel", whose equivalent in Catholicism is a possible "idolatry of Our Lady", who is seen by some Catholics as a fount of blessing to them, even when her veneration does not lead to Jesus, from whom alone comes the blessing of salvation to Catholics and to the whole world. So, according to this current which overvalues Israel, Israel, on its own, even without Jesus, is a source of blessing for the nations that bless Israel.

Let us keep in mind that Elizabeth proclaimed Mary "blessed" among all women since, because of her faith, she became the mother of Messiah (Lk 1.42 ), and Paul says that the Father has blessed all the nations with every spiritual blessing "in Christ" (Eph 1.3 ). From this it becomes clear that there can be no blessings "for" or "from" Israel, other than through Jesus Christ. This will become clearer in the following excursus on the blessing "for" and "from" Israel.

This "divine ideology" of Israel is kept alive by the fundamentalist, strongly anti-Catholic, Messianic-Evangelism, which equates the anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church with Hitler’s anti-Semitism!

A brief biblical excursus on the true meaning of blessing "for" and "from" Israel

Before we proceed further with regard to the erroneous way of understanding the above-mentioned blessing for Israel, it would be useful to clarify the true meaning of God’s blessing on Israel and from which Israel first and all the nations of the earth afterwards benefit.

First of all we may replace the term "blessing" with the expression "salvation, life and peace" first of all for Israel and then for the nations, blessed with the blessing of Abraham. "Salvation, life, peace" are the three goods constituting the blessing of God, as three gifts of unutterable value contained in a single gift-parcel.

The first repository of this blessing was Abraham, the patriarch of Israel and of a multitude of nations (Gn 12:3; 17:4 -5). In Abraham the blessing took a twofold form: granting to Abraham and his descendants according to the flesh the Holy Land, a place of life and peace, and the coming of a Son, the Messiah, who was to bring salvation, life and peace to Israel and to all the nations. This son of Abraham is not the whole carnal offspring of Abraham, Israel according to the flesh, but the Messiah of Israel, clearly symbolized by Isaac and his story. The Messiah was supposed to bring to Israel and to the nations the salvation, the life and the peace of God.

The Holy Land was given to Israel at the end of the Exodus from Egypt, after Joshua conquered Canaan. We see that their dwelling in this Land as their own homeland was supposed to be like an Edenic Paradise for Israel, provided the Land given to Israel would preserve its Sanctity, owed to the DIVINE PRESENCE, abiding in the Temple of Jerusalem, by observing the law of Holiness, given by God to Israel through the Torah. Israel did not respect the Sanctity of the Land that God gave to them and God, in the time of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, informed Israel that they would go into exile from the Land because of the widespread sins of the people against His Sanctity and against the Sanctity of the Land.

At the time of the coming of the Messiah, God intended to give a New Torah to Israel to renew the covenant with them. This new Torah was no longer given in a code of precepts to be observed, but in the Person of the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to be believed and accepted as Savior and true King of Israel. Therefore the second part of the blessing of God "for" Israel, the one that would have come to Israel by accepting the Messiah, salvation, life, peace, was being fulfilled. We know how Israel as a nation of God refused to accept the Messiah, and even had the Romans kill him. God then temporarily deprived Israel as a nation of the blessing of the Messiah, reserving the right to bless Israel with the blessing of the Messiah only in eschatological times, after the time of the nations, on the verge of the second coming of Jesus in glory and in the last day of history. Israel, in addition to being deprived of the blessing of the Messiah and, therefore, of salvation, life and peace coming from Him, was also deprived by God of the possession of the Holy Land, with the phenomenon of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, symbol and center of the Jewish religion, and with the dispersion among the nations, unable to return and live in the Holy Land.

Meanwhile, Israel’s rejection of the Messiah turned out to be a "blessing" for the nations, which began to widely accept the Messiah, the Son of God and of Abraham, thus becoming heirs of the blessing of Abraham. Paul speaks of the fall of Israel as the "riches of the world" (Rm 11:12 ) and of their failure as "riches of the gentiles" (id.). From these words we can see that God’s salvation, life and peace (the blessing of God) have been granted to the pagan nations "through" Israel in a two-fold sense: because the Messiah, the bearer of the blessing, was from Israel, and because Israel, by rejecting the Messiah, made it possible for the Messiah to be preached more powerfully and freely in the midst of the pagans, favoring the spread of the Gospel in the midst of them.

At this point we must be firmly convinced that there is no two-fold salvation or a two-fold blessing, one for Israel and one for the nations. Absolutely not. The blessing of salvation-life-peace through the Messiah is one and the same for Israel and for the nations. In God’s eternal plan for the nations, which is carried out in historical phases through human time, although Israel has rejected the Messiah and has not received his blessing, God has not excluded forever Israel from the blessing of the Messiah, but has reserved the last time in history to make this event come true. In the meantime God is at work in history towards Israel, allowing them to remain the people of God, linked to an anti-Messianic Judaism and preparing the times of their final "conversion" to the Messiah. Israel’s perseverance for twenty centuries in the Jewish religion, during the Diaspora period, away from its Land, can be compared to the forty years of pilgrimage in the desert, at the time of Moses, because of its unbelief. Its exclusion was not permanent, but temporary, until a new generation of Jews was raised, to whom God entrusted the Promised Land. We can consider these biblical facts as a symbol of what has happened and is happening to anti-Messianic Israel during these twenty centuries.

But now times are changing. I will explain this in greater detail below. New events, never seen before during the past twenty centuries, make it clear that we are entering the last eschatological phase, foretold by Paul and by apocalyptic prophets such as John of Patmos. The time of the blessing of God for Israel through the reception of the Son is drawing near. At this point in time, we, the rest of the nations, we who have accepted the Messiah and still have his blessing, must earnestly pray and strive that this acceptance of the Messiah may take place more quickly, and welcome as brothers in the Lord the Jews who accept the Messiah. In so doing, we pray "for" the blessing on Israel, which in the times of the Messiah who already came and is about to return, cannot have as their center but the reception of the Messiah. But we must also remember that Paul has prophesied that "from" Israel, the Israel which in the last days will accept the Lord Jesus, a blessing, even more powerful than the one that occurred at the beginning of Christianity with the spread of the faith in the Messiah among the nations of the earth, shall be showered down upon the whole of humanity. In other words, in the last days, God has planned to bless in a new way and more powerfully the nations of the earth through the blessing of the Messiah, which will have finally come upon all of Israel. That is what Paul clearly teaches: 

"But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!... For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?!" (Rm 11:12, 15).

Therefore we understand how in these last times our prayer, the prayer of the rest of the nations that have remained faithful to the Messiah, "for" the blessing of Israel through the acceptance of the Messiah automatically turns into a blessing from God to the nations, proceeding "from" Israel. Hence it is true that the nations (the rest, the remnant) who pray that Israel be blessed by the acceptance of the Messiah, will receive a blessing from the Messianic Israel of the last times, destined to become the spiritual guide of the nations who have become blind to the Messiah, and so prepare them for the final coming of the Messiah in glory, thus preparing humanity for the judgment of the nations, an event which will bring an end to human history on earth.

It remains to consider the blessing of God concerning the occupation of the Holy Land on the part of Israel in the context of the last times for Israel and for the nations,. In my opinion, it is a blessing from God, but concerning only the civil and earthly aspects of the life of Israel, detached from any properly supernatural blessing of God on Israel, which comes to it only by accepting Jesus the Messiah and Son of God.

There is a fact that supports this interpretation of mine. When at the time of the Exodus Israel conquered the Holy Land from the Canaanites, everything happened according to the canons of a true "holy war" in which, more than the sword, it was the DIVINE PRESENCE at the head of the army of Israel that brought about the collapse of the dominion of the seven Canaanite tribes over the Holy Land. After twenty centuries of Diaspora, Israel re-conquered its Land in a completely secular way, with the power of the sword, without any reference to the DIVINE PRESENCE in the midst of the army of Israel. The Zionist movement, which determined the return of the Jews to their land, was essentially a political-secular movement, wherein joined the more properly religious currents of Israel. The continuation in these years of Israel as a Nation and State in the Holy Land confirms this fundamentally secular interpretation of the blessing of God on Israel. Further on, I shall explain better my interpretation, showing how the rise of a lay State as a form of a nation of strictly religious origin, such as Israel, is part of God's Plan regarding Israel in the last times and is not in contradiction with the strictly religious origins of Israel.

Five possible ways of understanding Israel. The first three ways.

Let us return now to the central theme of this study. I refer to the two heretical deviations, of which I spoke before the biblical excursus on the blessing "for" Israel and "from" Israel. In between these two extreme heretical deviations now I would like to present some intermediate positions, but in order to make them clearer, it is necessary to analyze separately five possible ways in which we can use the term "Israel".

1. According to the first way, "Israel" refers to the people whose history is told in the books of the Old Testament up to Jesus. There is little to say about this. Both the Church and Judaism recognize the divine value of this history, in which God reveals himself and his Plan of salvation for all the peoples of the earth. Israel in this story takes on more and more the value of the instrument chosen by God to bring the blessing of God and the light of salvation to all nations. Israel thus refers to the "nation or people of God", linked to God with a covenant that determines their destiny forever.

2. According to the second way, by "Israel" is meant the Jewish nation after it rejected in its totality the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Since from the Diaspora onwards Israel no longer lives in its land, the name of Israel is replaced by that of "Judaism", which preserves the continuity of Israel as a nation, in spite of this nation’s dispersion among the peoples. The rejection of Jesus as the Messiah is characteristic of this type of "Israel" and it makes it grow distant from the Christian Church. This Israel continues to be "the nation of God", but marked with the serious sin of the rejection of the Messiah, no matter whether they are aware of it or not.

3. According to the third way, the term "Israel" nowadays indicates the State and the Nation of Israel, formed in the Holy Land from 1947 onwards. This Nation can no longer be considered  "the nation of God", but simply a nation just like the others, secular and democratic, like all the western nations today. Of course, the current Nation and State of Israel acknowledges its Jewish roots far more than the current European peoples recognize Europe’s Christian roots. These Jewish roots, however, remain simply roots, destined to culturally and spiritually influence political and civil Israel, but do not develop into a theocratic State, like the Old Testament Israel of the time of David and Solomon.

Here the issue gets complicated, because we are facing a radical novelty of Israel’s existence with regard to its origins and to the tradition of the Old Testament. In fact, Israel has always claimed to be "the people that God chose among the nations of the earth", also after Christ and until our days. Now the current existence of Israel as a Nation and as a State, no longer has a religious foundation; it is not a "theocracy", but a secular State, in which Judaism remains as its original culture and spiritually enlivens those Jews who participate in it.

This fact can be understood in several ways.

The first considers the rise of Israel as a secular State a serious sin and a serious derogation from the theocratic State model according to which the State of Israel was created in the midst of the nations of the earth at the time of David and Solomon. The sign of this theocratic State was the great Temple of Jerusalem, the abode of the DIVINE PRESENCE sovereignly ruling over Israel. The king was only the representative, anointed by God, to govern the people in His Name.

If from a Christian point of view, the religious anti-Messianic Israel remains marked with the serious sin of the rejection of the Messiah, which still endures for the whole of Israel, the rise of the secular State of Israel should be considered another grave sin by orthodox Judaism as it is not based on YHWH, the God of Israel. Hence Israel has not only refused its Messiah (according to the Christians), but it refuses also, as a State, to recognize its origin from God and its fundamental Statute of life in a divine Law, the Torah. Therefore the Nation and the State of Israel are a serious derogation from its roots and fundamental statute, which cannot be secular, but religious. This judgment of sin on the current secular Israel is not passed by us Christians, but by the most orthodox Jewish currents that judge the good and evil of Israel only in the light of the ancient Jewish Scriptures.

The second understanding considers it not a sin for Israel to have a completely secular political regime, but rather a Plan of God for his people Israel, Who in this way has reconstituted the existence of Israel as a Nation and as a State in the midst of the other nations of the earth, but at the same time has separated the earthly, political, economic, and temporal existence of Israel from its existence as God’s people, that is, from its strictly religious dimension. A similar thing happened with the Catholic Church, when in the 1800s the Church in Italy was deprived of its temporal dominion and was left only with its religious dimension to spread among the nations. Also the European States, with “Christian" regimes, had become theocratic States, whose sovereigns ruled in the name of the Holy Trinity, obeying in spiritual matters to the spiritual authority of the Church. In the modern era, by their refusal to spiritually obey the Catholic Church, the European nations have rejected their divine origin and have adopted Masonic-style secular, democratic and liberal Constitutions, even though the culture of European peoples was still abundantly marked by Christianity and the spiritual influence of the Church. Similarly to what has happened in Europe, the current political Israel has distanced itself from Judaism, a part of which provides for a theocratic State, and it has been established as a secular, democratic and liberal State, having Jewish culture as its root, but open to other cultural and spiritual currents, sometimes diametrically opposed to Judaism. That is an adaptation to the secular, liberal and democratic states of Europe.

In light of the messianic theology which accepts Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, this distinction that makes possible the rise of Israel as a secular Nation and State, is more than justifiable. Jesus, in fact, who was supposed to be the true King of Israel, never claimed a political rule over Israel, but simply a spiritual and religious rule which made Israel even more the true people of God. The kingdom of Jesus is not of this world, and this is valid for all, Jews and Gentiles, who believe in Him. In light of Jesus’ royal Messianism, Israel ceases once and for all to be a Nation and a State with a religiously-based political government, with a divine King that commands it, but turns out to be, in its political dimension, like the other nations of the earth. That is what has become manifest in our days with the rise of political Zionism, which has led to the establishment of the current Jewish Nation and State.

However the same does not hold true for the religious dimension of Israel, which is called "Judaism". Judaism, since the time of Jesus and his apostles, all Jews, is called to become Messianic Judaism and, if this project of God was not fulfilled for 20 centuries, today it is becoming manifest in a new way by the emergence of the current Messianic Judaism.

In this way, in our days, we face two completely new phenomena in the history of Israel. On the one hand we have the rise of a Nation and of a State, the political Israel, of secular and democratic foundation; and, on the other hand there is the incredible rise and development in just a few decades of a new Messianic Judaism, that is increasingly asserting itself as a revival and a completion of the ancient Judaism, before and after Christ.

There is a third understanding of the current political Israel. It is the understanding of those who seek out in the Old Testament the prophecies concerning current political Israel. These are both Orthodox Jews and Messianic Jews. It is interesting to note in them a certain contradiction. On the one hand, they are convinced of the strictly religious nature dominating the existence of Israel, and that is why they search out in the Word of God the confirmation of the phenomenon of the return of Israel to the Holy Land as a Nation and as a State. On the other hand they are not scandalized that this new political Israel, even beyond their rejection of the Messiah which continues to characterize religious Israel today as a whole, has a secular and democratic constitution, that does not take into account the religious origins of Israel and its duties toward God.

These do not preoccupy themselves with the reconstruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, where God dwelt with his DIVINE PRESENCE. When ancient Israel returned to the Holy Land after the exile of Jerusalem, there arose prophets (Haggai, Zechariah) who urged the people to reconstruct the Temple, announcing the future glory. This was the last attempt to preserve Israel as a decisively theocratic State, with the DIVINE PRESENCE in its midst. After the destruction of the Temple at the time of Titus and the phenomenon of the Diaspora, Israel, destroyed as a theocratic State, lived on as a Nation until our days in virtue of rabbinic Judaism. Now that Israel as a Nation has returned to its natural land and has been established as a State, there has been no serious concern neither on the part of State Authorities nor on the part of religious Judaism to rebuild the Temple and to restore the service in the temple, according to the model of ancient Judaism before the dispersion. Even the modern currents of Messianic Judaism, that earnestly strive to remind the Messianic Jews to preserve the traditional Jewish culture, do not speak about the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the restoration of the priestly service as it was before Christ. What does all this mean? We can interpret this lack of concern for the reconstruction of the Temple as a sign of the will of God concerning modern Israel as a Nation and as a State. God simply wills the reconstruction of Israel as a Nation in its native land and as a secular State. Israel as God’s Temple and Abode in the midst of the nations is no longer the task of the political Israel and of the anti-Messianic Judaism, but of Messianic Judaism, which becomes in Christ the new Temple of God among the nations united to the Temple of God among the nations, that is the Church of the Gentiles. In the New Testament we no longer have a Temple of stone, built in Jerusalem or Rome, preserving the DIVINE PRESENCE, but a MESSIANIC COMMUNITY, composed of believers in Jesus the Messiah and Son of God, Jews and Gentiles.

For these reasons I accept the second understanding of the current political Israel, because it complies with the faith in Christ. This understanding makes a clear distinction between the political and religious tasks of Israel. Its political task sees Israel involved in the conflict with the Palestinians in the Holy Land and must be politically resolved with the help of the other nations of the earth. Its religious task calls Israel to get involved in its lay conflict of resistance to Christianity, since official Judaism still does not recognize Jesus as the Messiah, but is destined to be surpassed by Messianic Judaism, as it has in fact already begun to happen.

The other two ways of understanding "Israel"

Getting back to the ways of understanding the word "Israel", there is also a fourth way to construe this term, when by it is meant present Messianic Judaism. It is connected with the second way. It indicates Israel in its religious dimension, so it is a Judaism, but at the same time it is not anti-Messianic, but pro-Messianic, since it recognizes that Jesus is the Messiah and reinterprets all of Judaism in the light of Jesus the Messiah, considered as the completion of Judaism. Messianic Judaism is of course spiritually connected with the Gentile Church of those believing in Jesus, but not with any of the Institutional Churches existing in the world of the Gentiles. It is the task of Messianic Judaism to also ponder on how to connect with the anti-Messianic Judaism of twenty centuries ago and with Israel as a secular nation and State.

There is then a fifth way of speaking about "Israel". It is in a symbolic and spiritual sense, when it said that the Church is the "new Israel", the Israel according to the spirit, of which the cornerstone is the Messiah Jesus and the foundations only the apostles of Jesus. It is a people consecrated to the Lord their God, just like ancient Israel used to be. This language can be erroneously understood, if it derives from the theology of substitution, according to which Israel according to the flesh is stripped of all of its divine prerogatives that now have passed to the Church, the new Israel. It may, however, be correctly understood, if we speak of the Church of the Gentiles, which continues the development of ancient Israel in the midst of the nations in virtue of the grafting in of the Gentiles onto the most sacred root of Israel: its Messiah.

Various relations that can be established between these 5 ways of understand Israel depending on the starting point

After the succinct presentation of these 5 ways of understanding the word "Israel", one can think of a network of relations between these five realities that can be described in the following way. Each way is characterized from its starting point, which is the way in which a Jew or a Christian feels to belong to.

At present, Old Testament Israel no longer lives, but it lives on as the origin of the current ways of Israel’s being, which cannot but relate to their Old Testament origin.

First way. Starting Point: Old Testament Israel. What is its relation with anti-Messianic Judaism, with Messianic Judaism, with the present Nation and secular State of Israel, and with the Church, the new Israel?

Second way. Starting Point: Israel or anti-Messianic Judaism. What is its relation with Old Testament Israel, with Messianic Judaism, with the present Nation and secular State of Israel, and with the Church, the new Israel?

Third way. Starting Point: Israel, Nation and Secular State. What is its relation with Old Testament Israel, with anti-Messianic Judaism, with Messianic Judaism, and with the Church, the new Israel?

Fourth way. Starting Point: Messianic Judaism. What is its relation with Old Testament Israel, with anti-Messianic Judaism, with the Nation and secular State of Israel, and with the Church, the new Israel?

Fifth way. Starting Point: The Church, the New Israel. What is its relation with Old Testament Israel, with anti-Messianic Judaism, with Messianic Judaism, and with the current Nation and secular State of Israel?

It would be good now to deal with these five ways of mutual relations between the concerned realities. This can be done in another study. That would result in a complete map of the complexity of the issue concerning Israel throughout history and at present.

To Ariel

Now I am addressing you, Ariel, and I ask you, a Gentile Catholic, belonging therefore to none of these four ways of Israel’s being, but to the Church, the new Israel, yet at the same time very close to what belongs to Israel in the aforesaid manners, except perhaps for the anti-Messianic Judaism.

Having read both your letter to the Church and your website, I have the impression that your favorite starting point is Old Testament Israel (but read in light of the Messiah and the New Testament) and current Messianic Judaism, to which you feel spiritually united because of the common Messianic faith in Jesus. I am like you. In terms of faith I am related with Israel and I feel attuned to O.T. Israel (First definition) and with Messianic Judaism (Fourth definition). Whereas the controversial point, in my opinion, is the relation with today’s Israel as a Nation and secular State. Here there is no longer a close relation of faith, both because the State of Israel is secular and because the Jewish culture of this State continues to be predominantly anti-Messianic.

In my opinion, you, the current anti-Messianic Judaism, and pro-Messianic Judaism have many expectations and views of a religious-biblical type, almost a religious overvaluation of the political Israel, which does not correspond to the actual reality of the political Israel which is a secular State.

There is a disagreement between the two views: on the one hand the totally secular view of Israel as a State, as held by the Holy Land Church of Palestinian majority and by those who fight Israel and its policy against the Palestinians, on the other hand, the religious view of Israel as a State, though secular, as held by those who continue to interpret the secular State of Israel as something foretold in the biblical prophecies which are being fulfilled now concerning Israel.

My position is intermediate: I agree that Israel becoming a secular state is part of God's Plan, and hence it is right to support Israel in its just claims to live in the Holy Land, though not approving all its ways of dealing with the Palestinians; on the other side the true Plan about Israel does not focus on a political Israel, but provides for the conversion of anti-Messianic Judaism to pro-Messianic Judaism, a phenomenon already occurring with the present Messianic Judaism. This Plan aims to give to the nations of the world the final eschatological sign of the next coming in glory of the Lord Jesus with the permanent coming of the Kingdom of God.

This view makes it possible to place on two different levels the commitment in favor of Israel as a State in the Holy Land and the commitment to the more holy cause of speeding up the conversion of all Israel to Jesus the Messiah. The way you express yourself in your letter when speaking about the ten elephants, does not, in my opinion, sufficiently make a distinction between the two commitments, because they are mixed together and it is not easy to find a solution as to how chase the elephants out of the inner chambers of the Church.

In other words, there is not as yet a full awareness about the distinct ways in which God has acted in the current situation with regard to the lay and democratic political Israel and the religious Israel, which, in my opinion, would be the key to the fulfillment of God's plan in Israel and in the world, without being hampered by the existence of a new type of Israel as a nation and state with a secular constitution. It is the same phenomenon that has taken place in today’s Catholic Church, which appears in the world only with its religious dimension, whereas previously its strictly religious mission was intimately connected with the political power in support of this mission. The religious Israel is like the Church, an essentially religious community, born from the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth, having as its mission the coming of the Kingdom in all generations and at the end of the story, and not to support any religiously-based political entity.

In my opinion the most obscure point to understand is the place which the establishment of current Israel as a nation and secular State has in God's plan on Israel. In church, when we open the Bible, and in our interreligious encounters with both Orthodox Judaism and with Messianic Judaism, Israel always appears in its religious dimension only, as the bearer of God’s revelation to the world.  The cause of scandal and of separation from the Christian world, today, is not only the rejection of the Messiah on the part of Orthodox Judaism, but also the non-religious political Israel, which pursues secular and civic goals, devoid of any religious reference, and which are seen as unjust towards the Palestinians by most of the Catholic Christian world.

In my opinion, if we wish to grasp the meaning of God's Plan in history with regard to Israel, we must go far beyond the issues relating to the present political Israel or any other temporal  vision regarding Israel. We must grasp the role Israel has in God's Plan in the last days of history, wherein we have entered with the end of the time of the nations and the beginning of the time of Israel as God’s nation called in the end times to accept Messiah.

Now I would like to talk about this vision of things.

All the great movements of apostasy from the faith in Christ which have occurred in Europe during the twentieth century (such as Nazism and Communism, allied together to destroy the people of God, made up of Jews and Christians), the rebuilding of Israel as a nation and as a state in its Land of origin, the sudden emergence and rapid growth of Messianic Judaism, the beginning of Israel’s return to the Messiah, are three powerful "signs" showing that we have entered the last times in history, shown in the Scriptures regarding the times of the nations and the beginning of the acceptance of the Messiah by all Israel. These last times are meant to prepare men, especially those who believe in Jesus, for his return in glory on the last day of history. The restoration of Israel as a nation and a secular state and the acceptance of the Messiah by all of Israel, starting from today’s Messianic Judaism, are only the beginning, but should not be construed in a temporal way as it was the case with certain expectations about the coming of the Messiah at the time of Jesus’ first coming in history. The true meaning of Israel, in the ultimate fulfillment of the divine Plan of Salvation, is completely detached from any political accomplishment of Israel, even though the political Israel of today has a significance in the divine Plan of salvation. 

Yet this is not about the restoration of a political kingdom of God in Israel, but about the coming of the eschatological Kingdom of the Father for all the just and holy people of all times. There is no Scripture that speaks of the restoration of Israel as a theocratic Nation and State, with God and his Messiah as its head. If Israel has to accept its true King, the Messiah, it is not because Jesus may become its political King, but because this acceptance may prepare the New Messianic Israel for the second coming of Jesus in glory, in which Jesus will be equally accepted as King by those who lovingly expect his coming, be they Jews or Gentiles. This, however, has nothing to do with the establishment of a political Kingdom of God in Israel, but with the coming of the eschatological Kingdom of the Father, once and for all, for all the just and holy of all times.

Therefore I am personally convinced it is the will of God that in these times Israel has a double identity: a political one as a Nation and as a State with no relation to the Law of Moses; the other one a Judaic identity, called by God to increasingly transform itself from anti-Messianic Judaism into Messianic Judaism. I am convinced that the two heterogenous identities are part of God’s plan on the Hebrews today. As a Catholic, believing in Jesus, when I look at the Jewish world, I am strongly attracted by its divine origin (Old Testament) and by the current movement of Messianic Judaism. I feel at home there the same way I feel in my own Catholic home. I can also support Israel as a Nation and as a secular State, but not in the same way. There is no spiritual communion with this Israel but rather a human debt of recognition toward a people that has greatly suffered in the past centuries and now has finally found its homeland and its political unity. From this point of view I unreservedly support Israel as a Nation and State even with its current secular regime, although I may criticize some of its anti-Palestinian actions. However, the political Israel of today and anti-Messianic Judaism are representatives of Israel according to the flesh, and they can obtain salvation through faith in Jesus the Messiah, in the same way as the pagan nations. As a Catholic I have no spiritual communion with Israel according to the flesh; whereas Old Testament Israel and current Messianic Judaism are my kith and kin: my father (O.T. Israel) and my brothers (Messianic Judaism). Politically speaking, from a Catholic point of view, I support the freedom of options in favor or against Israel in its political choices toward the Palestinians, though supporting the will of Israel to occupy the Holy Land as its own earthly homeland. It is a bit like the Italian Catholics who politically belong some to the left wing and some to the right. Here political views are worth more than religious views, even though some political views, when they easily go against "non-negotiable values", as they are wont to say in Italy, must find the right and left wing Catholics united in their defense.

I don't know how much this position of mine is akin to yours. Of course you are more involved in the situation of Israel as a Nation and as a State, because, unlike me, you live in Israel.  It is this involvement of yours that puts you in a singular contrast with the Holy Land Catholics, whom you deem to be against Israel as a Nation and as a State, while you're totally in favor of it. You see how this issue prevents the Holy Land Catholics from being open to the novelty of Messianic Judaism and to the appreciation of the religious heritage Israel brings to the Church. It prevents them from correctly appreciating your commitment to Israel as a Catholic. Thus, this is exactly the most delicate point of the question. You should better clarify your relation with the different realities which at present go under the name of Israel and act accordingly when it comes to the language you use and the works you do, in compliance with this vision of things.

I would like to know what you think about this long analysis on the usage of the term "Israel", because in my opinion, the devil, availing himself of the different ways of understanding Israel, muddies the waters and sets us against each other when we talk about Israel.

Then a further study ought to be done on the role of Israel at present with regard, on the one hand, to the secularized Western World - the Church of the Gentiles in the midst of the nations and, on the other hand, to the Muslim world, both as a religion and as States. To this issue I intend to dedicate a specific study.

With affection and united in our purpose to understand God's work at present and to cooperate with it.

Fr. Carlo Colonna

Fr. Carlo Colonna was a Jesuit priest. He lived in Bari, where he was spiritual assistant of a charismatic Covenant Community, the Community of Jesus, engaged in ecumenical dialogue with the evangelical-Pentecostal, Anglican, Orthodox worlds, and with the Messianic Jews. He was a preacher, author of religious songs and writer of numerous books on spirituality and catechesis.

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