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May 22, 1998

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8 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana J f __= Q The top six changes in Catholic-Jewish By EUGENE FISHER Catholic News Service The world's bishops voted over- whelmingly "placet" ("it pleases") when a short document titled "In Our Time" ("Nostra Aerate') was placed before them for final action. That was Oct. 28, 1965, during Vatican Council II. The document would forever change the church's perception of its relationship to non-Christian religions. Section 4 of that document, the sec- tion around which the rest of it was built, concerned the relationship between the church and the Jewish people -- the people on whose history, as the document acknowledges, the salvation history of all humanity is erected. It is amazing, in retrospect, that it was felt necessary in such a document to devote one of the total of 15 sen- tences (in Latin) to affirming the fact that Jesus, Mary and the apostles were Jews, and that their Jewishness was part of the divine plan. So this is the first point on my "top- six" list of the changes in Catholic-Jew- ish relations over the past three decades: 1. The acceptance by Catholics that Jesus was a Jew -- a pious, observant Jew, Before the council, Jesus' Jewishness, while not denied, was hardly men- tioned in Catholic preaching and teach- ing. Today, this is a key element in Catholic educational materials. This is a historically simple yet theo- logically pregnant point. For if Jesus adhered to his ancestors' faith and tra- dition, then the faith and practices of our Jewish neighbors today is relevant to how we understand our own Catholic life and faith. We need dialogue with the Jews to understand who we are as Catholics. Of no other religion, as the pope has Roots reiterated, can this be said in quite the same way. 2. In 1986 the pope bishop of Rome visited the Great Synagogue of Rome and prayed there with its people. It was the first time since St. Peter that a bishop of Rome had done such a thing. Given the nearly 2,000 years of history in between those visits, this one man's "small step" was indeed a ',giant leap" for humankind. 3. Studies of Catholic textbooks produced since Vatican Council II reflect the remarkable nature of the change in what is actu- ally taught about Jews and Judaism. An entire struc- ture of polemics against Judaism, termed by schol- ars the "teaching of con- tempt" and dating back to the fathers of the church in the second century, has vir- tually disappeared. It has been replaced by a more positive, more accu- rate portrait of Jewish faith. The infa- mous "deicide" charge of collective Jew- ish guilt for Jesus' crucifixion is no more, as Vatican II mandated. 4. Centers and institutes of Jewish- Christian studies have proliferated. The first such institute ever was established in the United States at a Catholic uni- versity, Seton Hall in New Jersey, in the mid 1950s, with a couple following in Europe in the 1960s. The vision of mutual spiritual and aca- demic enrichment between Jews and Christians embodied by these small insti- tutions remained isolated to a few pock- ets of hope until the mid-1970s. When I returned to Detroit after com- pleting my doctoral studies in Judaica at \\; "There now are hundreds of local parish/ synagogue dialogue groups meeting on a regular basis in U.S. dioceses," says Eugene Fisher of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for New York University's Institute of Hebrew Studies (where I was often the only non-Jew in the classroom), I was asked to teach courses in the Hebrew Bible at the major seminary -- but only after some close scrutiny to make sure that my faith had not been tainted by the experience of learning how the" Jews understand the Scriptures their ances- tors wrote! But now there are dozens of institutes for Jewish-Christian studies at Catholic colleges in the United States alone, along with departments of Jewish stud- ies at other Christian and even secular universities where Christian and Jew- ish scholars learn from and with one another. By FATHER EUGENE LAVERDIERE, S.S.S. Catholic News Service Jesus was a Jew. So were Mary and Joseph. So were the apostles and the early Christians. The New Testament shows how they observed the law, attended the syna- gogue on the Sabbath and made a pil- grimage to Jerusalem for feasts such as Passover and Pentecost. In those days there was no New Testa- ment. For Jesus and the early Christians, the Scriptures were what later would be called the Old Testament. For the early Christians, including Paul and the evangelists, the Book of Psalms was the basic hymnbook for wor- S3hip as well as their prayerbook. For us, the Book of Psalms is still the basic worship hymnbook. The Old Fes- tament, like the New Testament, is part of the Christian Scriptures. Think of the Mass. On most Sundays and weekdays, the first reading is from the Old Testament. The second reading and the Gospel reading are from the New Testament. In our liturgy, the reading from the Old Testament points to the readings from the New Testament. These New Testa- ment readings interpret the Old Testa- ment reading in light of the Gospel. As Christians, our personal identity comes from our relationship to Christ, the Son of God. But that does not mean that we should deny the Jewish roots of our faith. St. Paul was a devout, zealous Jew. Through Jesus, the Son of David, he related to his Jewish heritage. Through Jesus, the Son of God, he related to the church. As Christians, our roots are in the early church, in the circle of Jesus' first disci- ples. Through Jesus of Nazareth and the early church, we who are Christians also trace our roots to the Jewish people liv- ing in Judea, Galilee and elsewhere. Through them we are related to their ancestors, the Israelites. Ultimately, we can trace our roots to the early Hebrews, beginning with Abraham and Sarah. Jews have a very special relationship to Christians. Remember that Jesus of Nazareth Was a Jew. That is why anti- Semitism or anti-Jewish sentiment has no legitimate place in Christianity. Anti-Semitism represents a rejection, even hatred, of our own faith heritage. Sometimes people try to justify anti- Semitism, accusing the Jews of killing Christ. Who killed Christ? Human beings, both gentiles and Jews, killed Christ. In the Passion accounts, Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers represented the gentiles. The high priests and the leaders of the people represent- eci the Jews. Instead of pointing to the Jews, we should point to ourselves. The Jews did not kill Christ. We killed Christ. Blaming -!% Ecumenical and I: "Never before have so been involved directly sake of mutual -- CNS photo 5. Also there now local F groups meeting U.S. dioceses. Never many Catholics with Jews for the sake tual of the laity is vital to 6. Proliferating, caust centers. Holocaust groups of Ca for visits which are P study programs Catholic teachers munities with See the Jews, we use denying our Christ. Denial car anism! Father La Verdiere, priest, is a tor of Emma i L i