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April 4, 2014

By Sister Marianne Watts, CHANGES Lent is a time to heal separations. It’s a time of putting things together for the sake of unity, not pitting one side against another for the sake of winning. Judaism is Christianity’s ancestral religion. It is the soil, sometimes rocky, sometimes rich, out of which Christianity grew. We accept […]

1y01092rev2By Sister Marianne Watts, CHANGES

Lent is a time to heal separations. It’s a time of putting things together for the sake of unity, not pitting one side against another for the sake of winning.

Judaism is Christianity’s ancestral religion. It is the soil, sometimes rocky, sometimes rich, out of which Christianity grew.

We accept this reality but do we celebrate it?

Does it have to be pointed out that Jesus, who was the reason, the heart, the soul of Christianity, was a Jew?  Jesus brought us to the God-life through his life and death . . . as a Jew. How clearly do we realize that everything Jesus learned as he grew “in age and grace” was from the Law and the Prophets and the customs of his Jewish village, taught to him by his Jewish mother and Jewish foster-father and Jewish elders and Jewish neighbors?A Jewish friend of mine told me one time about her uncle who owned a retail store in one of our southern cities. He was known to be very successful and very honest, not because he was so knowledgeable about business, which he was.  No, it was because he knew that the slightest misstep on his part would never be tolerated by his high-class customers.  They knew he was a Jew.

How many devout Christians believe that such Jewish enculturation was completely irrelevant because Jesus was God and not only knew everything but was untouched by the time and place in which he lived and died?  That he somehow “didn’t need” to be a Jew?

To continue in that direction would be to conclude that God made a mistake in choosing this people.

From Deuteronomy 7:

“For you are a people consecrated to the Lord your God,

Who has chosen you from all the peoples of the earth to be

treasured people. It was not because you were such a

numerous people that God’s heart was drawn to you and that

God chose you– indeed, you were the smallest of all the

peoples. It was because God loved you and was faithful to the

oath sworn to your ancestors . . . .”

No, the Jews truly were and are God’s deliberate choice.

And they’re getting punished for it.  How else do we explain the anti-Jewish discrimination and prejudice that has characterized Jewish life on Earth just about forever?  (The enormously misguided notion that the Jews crucified Jesus has been put permanently to rest, hasn’t it?  Jesus’ death was decreed and validated by the Roman rulers and carried out by Roman soldiers. The Jewish elders were guilty of jealousy.  They were mischief-makers and gossips who stirred up mobs and worried about their popularity.)

The story of the Israelites and the Christians is one story.  How did we ever grow away from it?  When we were taught in grammar school or religious instructions that Christianity “fulfilled” Judaism, didn’t that lesson contain a certain amount of condescension?  As if in the Grand Theatre of Humankind the understudies played the parts until History produced the real actors?

In God’s plan, nothing is irrelevant. Every one and every thing has a season.  (You know the rest of the psalm.)

As Father Richard Rohr points out, “. . . the opposite of every profound truth is normally another profound truth, and they must listen to one another for wisdom to emerge.”  He sees the cross as “the cosmic collision of opposites” which both destroyed Jesus and gave him the opportunity to hold the opposites together as one: “the good and the bad thief, heaven and earth, matter and spirit, both sinners and saints gathered together at his feet, a traditional Jew revealing a very revolutionary message to his and all religion. . . . On the cross, Jesus becomes the Cosmic Christ.”

The revolutionary message?  Putting things together for unity. . . reconciling contradictions . . . honoring the Jewish-Christian paradox.

Celebrating Lent.

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Written by Gina Ciliberto

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