The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 is almost upon us.

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We know that, from the beginnings of the Church down to our century, relations with our Jewish brothers and sisters have unfortunately been difficult.

However, throughout this long and tormented history there have been occasions of peaceful and constructive dialogue. We should recall in this regard that the philosopher and martyr Justin significantly dedicated the first theological work entitled "Dialogue" to his encounter with Trypho the Jew. Also of note is the vivid dialogical dimension strongly present in contemporary neo-Jewish literature, which has deeply influenced the philosophical and theological thought of the 20t h Century.

This dialogical attitude between Christians and Jews not only expresses the general value of interreligious dialogue, but also the long journey they share leading from the Old to the New Testament. There is a long period of salvation history which Christians and Jews can view together. "The Jewish faith", in fact, "unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant" (CCC, n. 839). This history is illumined by an immense group of holy people whose lives testify to the possession, in faith, of what they hoped for. Indeed, the Letter to the Hebrews emphasizes this response of faith throughout the history of salvation (cf. Heb 11).

Today the courageous witness of faith should also mark the collaboration of Christians and Jews in proclaiming and realizing God’s saving plan for all humanity. If his plan is interpreted in a different way regarding the acceptance of Christ, this obviously involves a crucial difference, which is at the very origin of Christianity itself, but does not change the fact that there are still many elements in common.

It still is our duty to work together in promoting a human condition that more closely conforms to God’s plan. The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, which refers precisely to the Jewish tradition of jubilee years, points to the urgent need for this common effort to restore peace and social justice. Recognizing God’s dominion over all creation, particularly the earth (Lv 25), all believers are called to translate their faith into a practical commitment to protecting the sacredness of human life in all its forms and to defending the dignity of everyone.

In meditating on the mystery of Israel and its "irrevocable calling" (cf. Insegnamenti IX/1 [1986], p. 1028), Christians also explore the mystery of their own roots. In the biblical sources they share with their Jewish brothers and sisters, they find the indispensable elements for living and deepening their own faith.

This can be seen, for example, in the liturgy. Like Jesus, whom Luke shows us as he opens the book of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. Lk 4: 16ff.), the Church draws from the liturgical wealth of the Jewish people. She arranges the liturgy of the hours, the liturgy of the word and even the structure of her Eucharistic prayers according to the models of the Jewish tradition. A few great feasts like Easter and Pentecost recall the Jewish liturgical year and are excellent occasions for remembering in prayer the people God chose and loves (cf. Rom 11: 2). Today dialogue means that Christians should be more aware of these elements which bring us closer together. We should consider the intrinsic value of the Old Testament, even if this only acquires its full meaning in the light of the New Testament and contains promises that are fulfilled in Jesus. Was it not Jesus’ interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures which made the hearts of the disciples "burn within" them on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24: 32), enabling them to recognize the risen Christ as he broke bread?

Not only the shared history of Christians and Jews, but especially their dialogue must look to the future, becoming as it were a memoria futuri. The memory of these sorrowful and tragic events of the past can open the way to a renewed sense of brotherhood, the fruit of God’s grace, and to working so that the seeds infected with anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism will never again take root in human hearts.

Israel is a people who build their faith on the promise God made to Abraham: "You shall be the father of a multitude of nations" (Gn 17: 4; Rom 4: 17). This shows Jerusalem to the world as the symbolic place of the eschatological pilgrimage of peoples united in their praise of the Most High. I hope that at the dawn of the third millennium sincere dialogue between Christians and Jews will help create a new civilization founded on the one, holy and merciful God, and fostering humanity reconciled in love.

 

Condensed from the Holy Father’s Message for World Migration Day, on 2 February 1999 in Rome. The full text is available at www.vatican.va, the Vatican Web Site.   You can receive the English edition of L’Osservatore Romano,where this article also appears by e-mailing a request for a subscription to Dmedinger@aol.com or by calling (410)547-5380. The subscription rate is $151.00 U.S.

 

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