The second reading at Mass this coming Sunday is a cry from the heart of St Paul, distressed at the separation between him and his people, because they would not accept Jesus as the Christ, Lord, the Son of God.
What I want to say now is no pretence; I say it in union with Christ – it is the truth – my conscience in union with the Holy Spirit assures me of it too. What I want to say is this: my sorrow is so great, my mental anguish so endless, I would willingly be condemned and be cut off from Christ if it could help my brothers of Israel, my own flesh and blood. They were adopted as sons, they were given the glory and the covenants; the Law and the ritual were drawn up for them, and the promises were made to them. They are descended from the patriarchs and from their flesh and blood came Christ who is above all, God for ever blessed! Amen.
Antisemitism is one of the principal blights that has afflicted the Church, and been a curse for the Jews, for two millennia.
Its most horrifying manifestation was the Shoah – the degradation and slaughter of 6 million Jews by the Nazi state. Although the abomination of terror and death was turned on many others too, including Russians and Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals, socialists, the physically and mentally ‘handicapped’ and Christians. the evil waged against the Jews stands out.
And the Nazi persecution owed at least some of its purchase over Party minds and the German nation, because prejudice and discrimination against Jews had long been at least semi-respectable in society, because it was tolerated, and sometimes actively promoted in the Church, East and West, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant.
St Paul’s lament reminds not only of his blood relationship to fellow Jews, but of each Christian’s relationship with Judaism and therefore ‘the Jews’ through the waters of baptism. And if baptism is to mean anything surely its water has to be ‘thicker’ than blood.
- What prejudices do you see in yourself?
- What prejudice do you see in others?
Pope John Paul in the year 2000 , in Rome at a service of Repentance, prayed for forgiveness for Christians’ sins against the people of Israel.
Let us pray that, in recalling the sufferings endured by the people of Israel throughout history, Christians will acknowledge the sins committed by not a few of their number against the people of the Covenant and the blessings, and in this way will purify their hearts.
God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your Name to the Nations: we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie eleison.
He placed the prayer at the Western Wall of the former Temple in Jerusalem, during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, later that year.