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EASTER/ Weiler: The mystery of that death challenges me, an observant Jew

JOSEPH WEILER, an observant Jew, discusses the meaning of Easter, the prayer for conversion of the Jews, and what led to the estrangement of these two “brother” religions. 

(Infophoto) (Infophoto)

This year Good Friday coincides with the Passover. It was on this day that the brothers became estranged. Christians and Jews. For it was on the eve of this day that Jesus was tried before the Jewish Sanhedrin. Asked by Caiaphas, the Chief Priest: “Are you the Messiah the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus, who could have exonerated himself in many ways, answered simply in the Marcan account: “I am.” The result was inevitable: A unanimous verdict of Blasphemy, a capital offense. And you, imagine you were a Member of the Sanhedrin and some miracle maker who claimed to be the son of God – no less -- was brought before you. Would you not recoil with shock and indignation and cry Blasphemy? And thus, not surprisingly, contrary to our instinctual reaction, it is not that verdict and the subsequent execution by crucifixion of Jesus that is the source of breach between Jew and Christian. For after all, does not the core of Christianity rest on the crucifixion and Resurrection? In the death of Jesus as atonement for mankind’s sins? Can you imagine Christianity without the Crucifixion? It is the steadfast refusal of the Jews, even after the narrative of Resurrection to abandon their old ways, their “Old” Testament and Covenant, to abandon their laws and customs of Moses in favor of the New which is the source of estrangement and millennia of Christian anti-Jewish sentiment. Indeed, in the Tridentine Mass, the Roman Missal of 1962 which may now be used, specifically on Good Friday there is a special prayer for the conversion of the Jews which asks God to end “the blindness of that people.” That is the real Jewish offense.

Back in 2007 when Benedict relaxed some of the restrictions on the use of the Tridentine Mass, including the Good Friday prayer for the Conversion of the Jews, many in the Jewish Community took offense. Understandably – the sentiment behind that prayer accounts for plenty of innocent Jewish blood over the centuries. But I took no offense at all: A closer friend to Catholicism, a serious student of Christianity it is hard to imagine. And yet that very fact condemns me in Catholic eyes to Hell. For I have intimate knowledge of the Gospel, and yet I continue to reject it. No dispensation of ignorance for me. So if my Catholic friends want to pray for my salvation, I take that as an act of friendship rather than hostility.