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Should Catholic Evangelization Target Jews?, Ed. John Zmirak

The Bishops’ View, Dr. Eugene Fisher
A Man from Mars, Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Their Joy is Boundless, Dr. Ronda Chervin
All Israel Will Be Saved, Fr. Francis Martin
The Church Must Proclaim Christ, Mark Drogin
Intended Only for Gentiles?, David Moss

Their Joy is Boundless
by Dr. Ronda Chervin,
Jewish convert, Professor of Philosophy, Our Lady of Corpus Christi College.
Editor of The Ingrafting: The Conversion Stories of Ten Hebrew-Catholics and
Bread from Heaven: Stories of Jews who found the Messiah (New Hope, Kentucky: Remnant of Israel)

I can think of no Jew who believes that Jesus is the Messiah who does not experience anti-Semitism and the Nazi Holocaust as a deep cause of suffering. I can think of no Hebrew-Catholic who has not rejoiced to see the attempts of the Church in the 20th century to heal wounds caused by atrocities against Jews of misguided and sinful Catholics. The tremendous efforts of Pope Pius XII to save Jewish people even at the risk of Catholic lives has been followed by innumerable efforts on the part of Catholics to overcome anti-Semitism. Which of us did not thrill to think of John Paul II sitting in the synagogue of Rome addressing affectionately his elder brothers?

On the other hand, when I read that the only response to those of the Jewish religion should be respect, I am flabbergasted. How can any Catholic of Jewish or other origins not yearn for all human persons to know the beauty, holiness and redemption of our Savior Jesus Christ? Over and over again in the Gospels we see the desire of Jesus to reach his own people. When Simeon holds the infant savior in his arms he proclaims “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou has prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke 2: 30-32)

Throughout the centuries after the death of Christ, misguided and sinful Catholics have thought it pious to persecute Jews of their times for the crucifixion, certainly plotted by some Jewish leaders of that time. Along with a holy desire on the part of Christians, burning in the heart of St. Paul, for the conversion of the people of the Old Testament, there was also sometimes the use of a form of evangelization now universally seen to be illegitimate – namely trying to force conversions on others through pressure. However, there were also efforts throughout the same centuries by saints and other Catholics to evangelize the Jewish people out of desire that they experience the joy of knowing God the Son. Why did he come and die for them if he thought that their knowledge of God the Father was enough without him?

When the present reflection document speaks about barring “campaigns that target the Jews” not being acceptable do they mean forcing conversions, in which case all would agree, or do they try to make it seem that any group that is designed to attract and inform Jewish people of the coming of Jesus, their Messiah, is illegitimate? The purport of the document is to persuade Catholics that true inter-faith dialogue means ceasing to try to attract and inform. But this is contrary to all the documents about evangelization of all peoples that have come from the Church in the 20th century including the Catechism and the recent document from the Vatican The Jewish People and their Sacred Scripture in the Christian Bible by the Pontifical Biblical Commission. All these documents carefully explain that while it is necessary to preach and teach on the New Testament accounts of the crucifixion in such a way as to avoid blaming all the Jewish people of that time or Jewish people of later times, just the same the Church cannot be true to itself without wishing the Jewish people could find the truth about Jesus as the Messiah.

I, myself, a Jewish person brought up as an atheist, would never have found Jesus had not zealous Catholics of the Dietrich Von Hildebrand circle reached out to me in love and brought me to Jesus. Most of my family followed me into the Church. If you read accounts of such famous Hebrew-Catholics as Edith Stein, Rabbi Zolli of Rome, Cardinal Lustiger, you will realize that the joy of the Jew who finds the Jewish Christ, the Jewish Mary, and the Jewish apostles is boundless.

The document for reflection suggests that the greatest fruit of inter-faith dialogue would be plans for working together for social justice. A wonderful goal in itself. Praise be to God for all the work for social justice accomplished by Jews and Christians together. An orthodox Jewish daughter of a rabbi carries a sign in front of abortion clinics “Hitler laughs in hell every time a Jewish woman has an abortion.” I don’t see so many reform and conservative Jews working to stop the abortion Holocaust in spite of photographs of tortured babies as horrifying as any from Auschwitz. May the Holy Spirit open Catholic eyes to all forms of anti-semitism, from jokes to holocausts, and may the Holy Spirit open Jewish eyes to the love of Jesus for them, the loving motivation of most Catholics who long for the finding of Christ by his own people, and respect for life from womb to tomb.