Jewish Identity: Irrevocable Calling and the New Evangelization

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Ed. The following talk was given at the second historic Hebrew Catholic conference in New York, Jews and the Church, on March 20, 2005 by David Moss, Some early comments and a review of Fr. Friedman’s spiritual journey were left out as they appeared in the previous issue, The Hebrew Catholic, #81. This talk appeared in The Hebrew Catholic #82. All Rights Reserved

Jewish Identity: The Irrevocable Calling and the New Evangelization
David Moss

The seed of the AHC was planted in 1979 by Elias Friedman, OCD and Andrew Sholl. The second half of the twentieth century witnessed the planting of a much greater seed, the great work of the Holy Spirit known as the Second Vatican Council. To deal with the great apostasy within the Church and the growing secularization of cultures in modernity’s flight from God, the Council called the entire Church to a new evangelization, including a re-evangelization of the nations that once made up Christendom.

Fr. Friedman believed that the Jews who had been baptized and who had entered the Church had a profoundly important role to play in this new evangelization. And the Church, through the Council teaching reflected in Lumen Gentium (section 16) and Nostra Aetate (Section 4) seemed to lay the groundwork for this role to develop.

In Lumen Gentium, the Council Fathers wrote:

16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.

The phrase beginning “most dear to God” corresponds to St. Paul’s exhortation in Romans (11:28-29):

“… as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”

It is important to note that those of the People Israel outside the Church, the ones we recognize as Jews, retain the election, they remain beloved by God for the sake of their forefathers, and their gifts and calling are irrevocable.

If this is true for those who have not yet been baptized into Christ, how much more true must that be of those that have been baptized. As is true of everything according to nature, the grace of the sacraments, and in particular baptism, raises the People Israel to a new dignity and power in the Holy Spirit.

And so, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants, by virtue of their election, are called to be a servant people, a conduit and witness of God’s revelation, and a blessing to the world. The fruit of the election and the development of this People is carried out and recorded in the pages of the Old Testament. All will lead to the coming of the Messiah, true man and true God, an Israelite and the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.

The New Testament continues the record of the People Israel as they continue to serve in accord with their calling, a remnant becoming the apostles and disciples of our Lord. Through the inspiration and power of the Holy Spirit, this remnant formed the Church and sent out the missionaries to evangelize the Jews and Gentiles surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.

After the apostolic era, the Church became increasingly Gentile in its sociological makeup. The communal Israelite presence within the Church continued to diminish until, after the fourth century, it disappeared.

For the next millennia and a half, till this very day, Jews have continued to enter the Church, contributing their individual gifts in service to the Lord, His Church and to the world at large. However, the calling of the People Israel is a collective calling. And it is the communal and collective witness to Jesus and His Church that ceased to be exercised by this People after the fourth century.

One consequence of this reality is that the Church, which is the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile in Christ, now appears to the Jewish people as a Gentile religion. Today, when the term Christian or Catholic is used, sometimes even by Catholics, it seems to mean only Catholics of Gentile origin. One would not know that there are thousands of Catholics of Jewish origin in the Church..

Elias Friedman, OCD, looked at the remains of Christendom and meditated upon the apostasy. He saw the return of the Jews to the Holy Land and meditated upon the holocaust, the perseverance of the People Israel, and the significance of the election. Like Jesus, he turned to the Scriptures to understand what these signs could mean. A little of what he found, I relate below.

1. The election had not been revoked:

“God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew” (Rom 11:2) “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29).

2. The people of Israel will enter the Catholic Church, as St. Paul assures us:

“a hardening has come upon part of Israel until the full number of the Gentiles comes in, and so all Israel shall be saved (Rom 11:25-26)

3. And how would we know when that time had come, when the full number of Gentiles had come in, when the time of Israel’s ingrafting was approaching? Luke 21:24 tells us:

“… Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”

But that has happened, as we saw. In 1967. For the first time since 70 AD, Jerusalem was reunified under the sovereignty of the People of Israel.

4. And when the Jewish people do enter the Church, a great blessing shall result:

“Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!” (Rom 11:12)

5. Here are the thoughts of some saints as to what their full inclusion will mean.

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans writes:
“What, I say, will such an admission effectuate, if not that it bring the Gentiles back to life? The Gentiles would be the believers whose faith has grown cold; or even that the totality, deceived by the Antichrist, fall and are restored to their pristine fervor by the admission of the Jews.”

St. Jerome, in his commentary to the Song of Songs writes:
“Their sins occasioned the salvation of the Gentiles and again the incredulity of the Gentiles will occasion the conversion of Israel.”

St. John Chrysostum, in his homily on the Epistle to the Romans writes:
“Seeing the Gentiles abusing little by little their grace, God will recall a second time the Jews.”

Fr. Friedman saw that:

The Divine hand of God is moving through history: both Israel and the Church are being prepared for the ingrafting.

On the one hand, the Jewish People are being ingathered into their homeland: a material means to the spiritual end of their ingrafting.

On the other hand, while the Church is suffering its greatest apostasy, it is also inaugurating a new relationship with the Jewish people and is being prepared for the ingrafting.
As part of the preparation for the ingrafting, Fr. Friedman believed strongly that the Jews who had entered the Church needed to preserve their identity and their heritage and to once again exercise their collective and irrevocable calling, especially with regard to their collective witness to Jesus and His Church. This thinking has seemed to so fittingly and providentially accompany the Church’s call for a new evangelization, a re-evangelization, the dialogue with the Jewish people, and the Church’s exploration of the mystery of Israel. Here are some thoughts of leading Churchmen in accord with the thinking of Fr. Friedman.

From The Church of God by Fr. Louis Bouyer:

“Judeo-Christianity cannot be considered a transitory phase of abolished Christianity, forever surpassed by pagano-Christianity, which would have triumphed over it. The Christian synthesis must always be renewed by renewing its contact with the primary and, in a sense, definitive expression of the Gospel, in the categories and forms of Judaism.”

“Judeo-Christianity, as Paul and Peter recognized and proclaimed, remains forever the mother form of Christianity, to which all other forms must always have recourse. It is therefore a weakness for the Church that Judeo-Christianity, from which it was born and from which it cannot free itself, no longer subsists in her except in tracings. It can be believed that she will not reach the ultimate stage of her development except by rediscovering it — fully living in her.”

From The Mystery of Christmas by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa (preacher to Papal household):

“If Christ is “the glory of his people, Israel’, we Christians must do all we can, first of all to ack-nowledge this ourselves and then to remove the obstacles that prevent Israel from acknowledging it.”

“… the Church is responsible for Israel! It is responsible in a unique way, differently from how it is to all other people. The Church alone guards in her heart and keeps alive God’s project for Israel.”

“What is required is that the Israel according to the flesh enter into and become part of the Israel according to the Spirit, without for this having to cease being Israel also according to the flesh which is its only prerogative … because only in Christ is the destiny of the Hebrew people fulfilled and its greatness discovered.”

“… it is certain that the rejoining of Israel with the Church will involve a rearrangement in the Church; it will mean a conversion on both sides.”

And finally, in the Winter 2002 issue of Communio, from an article on the
The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible by Roch Kerestzy, O. Cist.:

“Reflecting upon Israel’s resistance, we should ask ourselves if God does not allow it because we have ignored the significance of historic Israel, the noble olive tree into which we Gentile-Christians have been grafted and in whose rich sap we share (Rom 11:17-18). What should we say to the Jews who think that any baptized Jew is a loss for the people of Israel? The cross of Jesus Christ has removed the separating wall between Jews and Gentiles and united us into one body, into his own Body. Should Israel turn to Christ, it seems that its great challenge would be to die to its own separate status and to embrace all humankind in the Church. However, analogously to the individual Christian whose dying with Christ results in a new risen life with Him, an Israel that would die to its own refusal of Christ would be exalted to a new life in Christ. It would not lose its identity but rather discover its own transcendent perfection and dignity. It would look upon its privilege of being the firstborn son of God as a service for all the nations. Its great joy and pride would spring from the fact that ‘the fullness of the world is elevated to the dignity of Israel.’* Then it would discover in the face of Jesus its own deepest mystery, the face of the eternal Israel of God.

*. “ut in Israeliticam dignitatem totius mundi transeat plenitudo” (Prayer of the Easter Vigil in the Roman Rite).

Since the nature and destiny of Israel is a collective one, the election can only be lived out collectively. Therefore, Fr. Friedman called for the Church and the Jews who have entered the Church to find ways to re-enable their collective vocation and prepare for the ingrafting of the Jewish people. This is where the work of the Association of Hebrew Catholics comes in.

The aims, therefore, of the Association of Hebrew Catholics include the following:

To gather the Jews who have entered the Church and to help re-enable their irrevocable calling, providing a collective and unified witness to Jesus and His Church

To preserve the identity and heritage of the Jewish people within the Church

To provide pastoral support for those who have entered the Church

To provide support for Jews who are searching and inquiring about Jesus and the Church

To be an integral part of the new evangelization, contributing a vibrant and rich Jewish perspective

To be an eschatological sign of the ingrafting, which may have already begun

To help all Catholics understand the Jewish roots of their faith

To be a witness to the Jewish people that the cross is not a sign of persecution, but rather of sacrificial love, that Jesus is the glory of Israel, and that Catholicism is the Judaism of the Redemption

To be a witness of 4 millennia of God’s merciful providence and fidelity, first to the People of Israel, next to the peoples of the world, and finally, to this world of the 21st century that is in a flight from God

And finally, by our efforts to hasten the day when all Israel shall proclaim
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.
The Church is now engaged in a dialogue with the Jewish people. This dialogue relates to the People Israel outside the Church. Fr. Friedman established the AHC to address the question and issues of the People Israel inside the Church.

We welcome all Catholics to join with us to pray for, work for, explore and support this next phase of salvation history. You may reach us through our web site: hebrewcatholic.org. From that web site, you may also join our email discussion group, request a sample issue of our publication, The Hebrew Catholic, and explore the resources in our web store.

I have heard Catholics of Gentile origin express their gratitude for the Jewish people, through whom they met our Lord – the way, the truth and the life. May I add that this Jew, David Moss, is grateful for the peoples of Gentile origins who have preserved and spread the Gospel through two millennia so that I too could discover our Lord – the Messiah and King of Israel and of all nations.

Speaking to the Gentile Romans about the Jews who didn’t believe in and follow Jesus, St. Paul said:

Just as you once disobeyed God but have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now disobeyed in order that, by the virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may receive mercy. For God delivered all to disobedience that he might have mercy upon all.

O, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Rom. 11:25-33)

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory for ever. Amen. (Rom. 11:36)

  • You are my witnesses (Is. 43:10)  •  You shall be my witnesses (Acts 1:8)