Monday, April 18, 2011

Holy Week and Anti-semitism

Something that hangs over our observance of Holy Week as Christians is the Anti-semitism that has been associated with ever since the writing of the Gospels. Through the centuries Holy Week, particularly God Friday, was a prime time for violence directed at Jews. It was though to be perfectly acceptable for Christians to continue to punish the "Christ killers." Matthew's Gospel supported this by the people responding to Pilate, "His blood be on us and on our children!" Those of you who were in church yesterday know that we skipped over that verse.

John's Gospel is the worst offender, however, and we read it every Good Friday. At Two Saints and St. Stephen's we use an edited version recommended by a Roman Catholic website (which, unfortunately I can no longer find). I do not think anything is lost by the editing.

I think it is important for us Christians to remember some things: First and foremost, Jesus was a Jew, an observant one. All the disciples were Jews. St. Paul was a Jew. And for all of them, Jesus included, their religious sensibilities were thoroughly Jewish. Jesus, it is fairly clear, had no intention other than a reformed Judaism. He certainly did not intend to start a new religion. Neither did St. Paul, even though he would break open Judaism through the acceptance of the Gentiles. Our sacramental rites all have Jewish roots, as does our way of daily communal prayer. Judaism is at the heart of Christianity, even if Christianity has developed in some very distinct ways.

Passover begins at sundown today. It doesn't always coincide with Holy Week. Perhaps we should take this advantage and reach out to our Jewish brothers and sisters, wish them a happy Passover and, if it feels right, an expression of regret or even repentance of the horrible Christian past of hatred directed at them. It may not seem an urgent thing to do, but remember, the Holocaust happened only 75 years ago. It is still within the lifetime of many and so its memory is still fresh, freshly painful.

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