Browsing Pastor's Corner

Jewish Roots

Nov 6, 2018

We all continue to be rattled by the recent shootings that took place in the Synagogue in Pittsburgh…no strangers to such Anti-Semitic hate and violence, sadly the Jewish people have a history going as far back as Abraham that is seeped in the violence caused by so much hate and persecution…none more horrifying than the Holocaust. And so, not so ironic, this passed Sunday readings highlight what is the Jewish People’s greatest and holiest prayer…the Shema Israel Prayer.

"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength."

More than just another religion or faith, if we were to do a Spiritual Ancestry DNA test, would we be so surprised as Christians to discover that about 100 percent of that number would be of Jewish origins?

To really appreciate the breadth and depth of our Jewish Heritage, I refer you to the book Salvation is from the Jews…the title taken from a statement that Jesus makes to the Samaritan Woman at the well:

You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews.

In the book, the author Roy Schoeman explains his extraordinary and inspiring journey from Judaism to Catholicism:

As a Jew coming to the Catholic Church, it was natural for me to find the relationship between Judaism and the Catholic Church among the most interesting things in the world. It was obvious to me that for a Jew to enter the Catholic Church wasn't a matter of conversion at all, but was rather simply coming into the fullness of Judaism.

Catholics often don't think of the Catholic Church as the continuation of Judaism after the Messiah. It's everywhere you look. It's obviously in the Sacrifice of the Mass and the way the Mass is prefigured in Jewish ceremonial worship. It's in the role that the Old Testament, Jewish Scripture has in Catholic theology and the structure of the Catholic Faith.

I had two mystical or apparition-type experiences. The first one, which I received during a period when I was essentially agnostic, made it clear to me that there is a God; that everything that one does during this life matters for moral content, for good or ill; that one lives forever and the nature of that eternal life is very dependent on how one spends one's life on earth; that everything that happens is a result of Divine Providence; and, most importantly, that every moment of one's existence, one is held in a infinite depth of love, far greater than one can imagine.

During this experience, I was not aware that the God who was revealing Himself to me was Christ. A year later, I went to sleep and I had an extremely vivid and awake-feeling dream of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and when I woke up, I knew that the God who had revealed Himself to me was in fact Christ, and I knew that I wanted to be as good and as complete a Christian as I possibly could.

How appropriate that it would be the Blessed Virgin Mary who would reveal to Roy the identity of Jesus Christ. It is incontrovertible that Mary was born a Jew, spent her life entirely among her own Jewish people, and remained ever faithful to the Jewish covenant, worshipping God as a Jew. The Jews were her one people, in fact the only people she ever knew.

And so it would be through Mary that the Messiah would finally come into the world, Emmanual, God with us. However, even Mary was part, the principal part no doubt, of a people who for all time, in God’s eternal plan, are referred to as the Chosen Race:

But what exactly were they chosen for? To be the only people of God or rather the people who would bring all people to God? As Christ was meant to save all people...as a Nation, Israel was meant to gather together all nations to Christ.

And they ever remain that Chosen People despite not having fully embraced Christ as the Messiah as Saint Paul explains in his letter to the Romans:

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? Of course not!a For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.b 2God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

 I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers and sisters: a hardening has come upon Israel in part, until the full number of the Gentiles comes in,s 26and thus all Israel will be saved,t as it is written:u

“The deliverer will come out of Zion.”v

 in respect to election, they are beloved because of the patriarchs.w 29For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.x

Irrevocable: Jesus is the Messiah and Israel the Messianic Nation and People...instead of the united nations they are the Uniting Nation par excellence.

As we profess in our Creed, I believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church...the Apostles were Jewish and the word Catholic is not meant as a religious affiliation or denomination but its proper use...catholic means universal...as in Christ died for all people...

As Jesus tells those Apostles who are His representatives of Judaism in the field of redemption: It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain...and there is no greater fruit than the Fruit of Mary’s Womb...blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus...as Catholics then, in and through the chosen people of Israel, we have been chosen to be disciples of Jesus Christ...

we have been entrusted with the fullness of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist...we are custodians of the Eucharist and so have the obligation to live and love Eucharistically...for as Jesus says to conclude His statement of I chose you...this is my commandment love one another as I love you.

As you can see in our Niche...the November Theme is Thanksgiving but not just mere thank you...but a gratitude that is the essence of our being...a Eucharistic Gratitude...thanking and loving the Lord and each other with all our heart, mind, soul, strength and by way of the holy Eucharist, with our entire bodies as well.

What is Mary doing if not adoring, giving thanks for the fruit of her womb which she as from a Priest’s Hands, from her body gives Jesus Christ to the world.

The Shema Israel prayer is more than just giving glory to God, in saying it one assumes a grave responsibility to one’s family, especially one’s children, though omitted from today’s readings, the next verse would have read after take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today:

Drill them into your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up.

Drill them into your children...parents must insist upon and instill in their children the practice of worship and praise.

I can imagine no worse sin of ingratitude than a refusal and failure to give Eucharistic thanks to God by way of Worship and then fail to drill that sense of devotion into one’s children.

As we hear the Scribe say from the Gospel:

You are right in saying, 'He is One and there is no other than he.' And 'to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself'

is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

There is no greater sacrifice than what Jesus Christ offered on the Cross and what is offered during each Mass...the most solemn celebration for the Jewish People is Passover...a lamb is slaughtered and eaten to commemorate their release from the slavery of Egypt and their eventual entry into the Promised Land of Caanan...but how is it possible that any amount of lambs killed and eaten can bring the forgiveness of sins and true freedom.

So would John the Baptist, the greatest of all the Jewish Prophets point out Jesus to His future Apostles saying...behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world...the Mass is the Catholic Passover...

the Lamb of God Jesus Christ once slaughtered...gives to us now His body and blood in the Holy Eucharist that we might be liberated not only from sin but from sin’s worst consequence...death and so have access to the greater Promised Land...everlasting life, love, peace and joy in Heaven...

but again, this way was paved for us by way of the Jewish People and their Jewish Faith...like removing steps in an equation, recipe or assembling something...it will turn out bad, wrong or busted...we can no more remove our Jewish roots from our Catholic identity as we can remove light from the sun...it would cease to exist...our salvation would cease to exist.

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