Traces N.1, January 1999

We Are Jews

When he was asked, presumably by someone sent by Mussolini, for the Church of Rome to favour Hitler's racial laws, Pius XI replied, "Spiritually we are Jews" (1938). Certainly a sound cultural background is needed to be able to make such an affirmation. In any case, the relationship between the Christian people and the Jewish reality, culturally or not, in our moment of history is perfectly indicated by the expression used by Pius XI.
What has pronpted me to intervene was my reading in la Repubblica of December 21st, of the awful fact, an effect of a resurgence in Germany of the Nazi affirmation: the bomb in Berlin's Jewish cemetery which seriously damaged the tomb of Heinz Galinski, one of the most representative figures of German Judaism.
This episode reminded me of the moment when, through the martyrdom of the Holocaust, the absurd sacrifice undergone for the sake of all, the Jewish people raised a cry, making it heard throughout the world. And for us now, Jewish history up to the time of Jesus carries with it a conception of man, of his destiny, of his relationships with the world that our people can feel prophetically analogous to its own history. The Holocaust has become a pedagogy for all Christians; as a painful and unjust hallmark, the Shoah is proposed by the most fervent Jewish culture as a pivotal argument for mankind, as it should be. So for us Christians today the analogy between the story of Christ and the meaning of the Holocaust is more certain than ever.
For us the divine pedagogy through the Jewish people tends to teach us, as supreme factor of social well-being, the conception of the one God of the Bible, creator and Mystery, who draws out a plan in time according to which the whole world reveals a dynamics from which springs its search for happiness and fulfilment; God, the one God, the totally Other, who is nonetheless the meaning of time and the Lord of the person, whose involvement is requred for judging the powers and the ways of man; the only God present on earth through the "Temple" ("I will come to you in the temple"), not only as a symbol of the divine, but as the place in which he participates in man's concrete existence, creating his people. And thus the Temple remains the supreme place for all the times and spaces of human history.
In order to affirm God and this Temple (all men must!) a people is chosen: the people that is born of Abraham, in which the person is created for the salvation of the world with a task that can be identified with that of the people itself.
This people to which God gives body in history in order to spread the knowledge of his Mystery throughout the world and in all times, "in all nations", finds his word involved in the vision of the end of history in which that same people will find itself on the day of the Lord, on which the promises to which the Jewish people must correspond with their faithful expectation will be fulfilled. It is the expectation of something that can save man and mankind, in other words, free mankind from the fact, significantly first in man's history, that foresees, thanks to original sin, a freedom before God that is handicapped. Therefore pain and "destruction". Thus the grandiose prophetic literature marks the apex and the depths possible in the awareness of the Jew on his journey.
The subject of that "great day" so eagerly awaited came to be identified with the term "Servant of YHWH" or "Messiah". The knowledgeable awareness of a Christian, imbued with tradition, cannot fail to identify his own existence in this history. What difference can there be? That for us the Mystery has wished to intervene in the tragedy of man, within the cosmos, by becoming man. Jesus of Nazareth for us is the fulfilment of the expectation in which the whole people of Israel lived, unique in the history of the world. Ours, though, is no presumption, but rather an astonished analogy; the Mystery of that person communicated itself to us poor ordinary men, in such a way that looking at how history has reached us in analogy with the history of the Jews, we may be happier in asking our Jewish brothers to pardon us our certitude, while their portion is still to bear diei et aestus (that is to say all the burden of history) in their life. The burden of faithfulness in the expectation of God, though, is borne also as a cross in the life of the believers.