“The Pharisees are important for two reasons. First, the Gospels portray them as one of the principle opposition groups to Jesus. Second, Judaism as we know it generally traces its roots back to the Pharisees.” (Jacob Neusner, Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity [Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1984], p.45)
Cardinal Martini was the organizer of the October 2008 synod on scripture which featured an address from Rabbi She’ar-Yashuv Cohen, a disciple of the militant messianic Zionist Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook HERE, HERE, HERE.
Cardinal Martini: “We must learn to love Israel more”
Giorgio Bernardelli – Vatican Insider
September 8, 2011
“It is not enough not to be anti- Semitic. One must love Israel with a love that is open to everything and everyone.” This is what Carlo Maria Martini, an expert on Judaism and Israel (where he lived for a long time as a Biblicist) had to say on the Catholic Church’s relation with Jews, and, indirectly, on the clouds that form now and again over this relationship.
The old prelate’s (who left Jerusalem a few years ago and now lives in the Jesuits House of Studies in Northern Italian city of Gallarate) appeal appears in the preface written by the Archbishop Emeritus of Milan for “the new book by Alberto Mello, a monk of the Bose Brotherhood in Jerusalem and an expert on Judaism. The book, which comes out in the next few days and is published by EDB editions in Bologna, inaugurates the “Christians and Jews” series, which aims at promoting a theologically deeper understanding between individuals of both faiths. It was this goal in fact that got Cardinal Martini thinking. “Until some time ago, the cardinal-Biblicist recalled, instruments for the creation of this mutual understanding were hard to go by. Relations between the two were often hazy and exposed to controversy. Even the dialogue process takes time. We have to admit that at least for the majority of Christians, their relationship with their own roots was unclear and there was no awareness of the huge religious heritage the two communities had in common.”
The turning point for this situation, Martini recalled, was Vatican Council II which abandoned all accusations of deicide and gave birth to a number of groups that promoted dialogue. It was not a one track movement: “Thanks in some part to my biblical studies and to my five year stay in Jerusalem, the cardinal wrote, I had the opportunity to come into contact with quite a few Jewish monks. I must say that they too showed an inclination to engage in dialogue with Christians. There are however many sore points: “The meeting with our “superiors”, Martini continued, must take into account the fact that they have a very difficult background that dates back to the early centuries of the Church’s existence, culminating in the Holocaust.”
How should these obstacles be overcome then? The historical and theological ability in addressing delicate issues is certainly important. But, as the Archbishop of Milan rightly said, this is not enough. Just as it is not enough to simply abstain from an anti-Semitic attitude. “We must love the Jewish culture of today, their music, their literature, their history, their way of praying and their way of celebrating. Only such a love, the Archbishop of Milan concluded, is capable of allowing individuals to overcome their fears and existing difficulties, giving way to dialogue and that joy and humanity that exists in a meeting between friends.”
The purpose of Alberto Mello’s book is to help explain why this meeting between friends is so important. It is not merely a guide to help one obtain a better reading of the Gospels; indeed, the Bosean monk starts with the idea that if, as the Church’s teaching today says, “Jesus is Jewish and he always has been,” then “his historical path, his gestures and his words are to be read in a Jewish context.”
And precisely for this reason, “these are still relevant for Jews as well as Christians.” Mello, therefore, accurately addresses topics such as the question of the relationship between Jesus and the Essenes, he compares his prediction with those of a few other intellectuals who lived in Galilee at the same time as him, he helps readers understand how a series of popular expressions taken from the Gospels, about Saturday, about what is pure and impure and about divorce fit perfectly in the debate on the halachà, the rules of etiquette to be followed in the practice of the Torah. The idea of Swedish exegete Birger Gerhardsson which Mello picks up on, according to which, the famous parable of the sower is an interpretation of the three faculties with which people are asked to love God in the Shemà Yisrael (the most important prayer for Jews), is fascinating. Israel prays with all its heart, soul and force. With this as a starting point, it is easy to see why the road, the stones and the thorns in the explanation Jesus himself gives in the evangelical text, correspond perfectly to the distractions of the heart, the mutability of people in the face of persecution and of worldly temptations and material wealth.
A book which offers the possibility for the Gospels to be re-read adopting a common perspective, cultivating that “love for Israel” which Cardinal Martini points to as the crucial step forward which today’s dialogue between Christians and Jews is so very much in need of.