If there is to be no distinction between Jew and Gentile, this means more than the emancipation of Christians from Jewish ritual laws. There can be no prejudice exercised against Jews, no persecution on account of religion or race. If we see any of this we know that the signs of the Messianic times are not being realised, and the Gospel is not being lived. The Nazi holocaust and the silence of Christian nations in the face of it proclaimed to the Jews that Messianic times are not yet. Because the Jewish community continues to be faithful, God is faithful to them.
Because the case of Judaism is unique, theologians have had to ask what about other religions? What should be the Christian reaction? From the beginning it was always seen as apostasy for Christians to take part in worship of pagan gods, to offer incense before idols, even before the statue of the Emperor. No distinction was made between the use of incense in a ceremony that symbolised civil obedience and loyalty, and the use of incense in what is strictly worship. On account of such a lack, many Christians died.
Anthropology came to our aid by distinguishing between what is actually religious ritual, and what is merely a civic ritual. In modern times this distinction was made in China and Japan so that Christians could take part in honouring ancestors.
It is interesting to see that Christians did not see these things as so terrible when done by pagans, as when done by those enlightened by Christ. Saint Justin Martyr (died 165 AD) saw pagan philosophies and religions as ways that were leading people forward and would eventually converge on Christ, bringing everyone to worship the Father. This understanding faded in time due to a general distrust of foreign people and cultures – which led to Western Crusaders even killing Eastern Christians! With such a background we can see how the view of non-Christian religion as inherently evil arose.
Door of Mercy from Doug in San Antonio
We have Gospel accounts of what Jesus gave. Everything is summed up by loving God with all your heart and mind, and your neighbour as God loves you. Christian morality consists of the love of God and the recognition of each other as children of the same Father. Augustine said teach the Ten Commandments, and then added – there are only two commandments! He evidently could not just teach the last piece of advice on its own, without first giving instruction on the Ten Commandments. So, is there any difference between Jewish and Christian moral teaching? Some have said the Jews follow the letter, Christians follow the spirit. Nothing could be more false; there is no difference of this kind between the two. Jesus did not teach a moral theology. He accepted the Jewish Law – he obeyed everything, including ritual laws, unless there was conflict with what the Father was asking of him in his vocation.
He tried to offer the insight by which living according to God’s law is simple – to be worried about regulations rather than whole-hearted service was far from the will of God. Jesus’ basic moral demands: repentance, faith and discipleship. There is no New Testament code of morality; Christian ethic is open to the future, to new demands in new situations.
We need codes of behaviour as support and guidelines, but we also need to be alert to the invitation of God hidden in everyday circumstances. No code can predict the possibility of Grace and salvation, the opportunities for loving response to anyone at any time. There is only one occasion when Jesus says there is a New Commandment – that we love one another as he loves us.
Veronica Geurin lived and died for the truth, not to obey regulations.
Our reflections on Eucharist raise a couple of questions about Jesus. What is the importance we attach to his death and the meaning of the Resurrection? And then, Jesus is shown as figuring things out about the meaning of his life, like the rest of us. He did not give us a theology of himself. He is simply there giving people his total presence, his friendship, his example and his teaching about the will of the Father and the Kingdom. We don’t have a chronology of his life, nor do we have a literal record of his words. The Gospels were written simply as proclamations of the good news of salvation, which the early Christians found through the experience of the resurrection and which they wanted to share. There was no intention to give us a biography of Jesus, which explains why so many things seem to be missing, and why the four accounts do not always agree – they are shared memories.
The basic message that the apostles preached was that they had experiences of Jesus as alive and present after his death; experiences which changed everything for them. At last, everything made sense. Jesus who had been crucified had been raised up by God, so that in him all could be raised to eternal life. Because of what they experienced they looked back to the Hebrew Scriptures in which they had grown up, and saw how everything was centring on Jesus, who somehow fulfilled the promises of all that went before.
They proclaimed that he was the Christ, the anointed and chosen one, who brought the promised kingdom in which hopes will be fulfilled. They also preached that he would come again, because they knew the messianic times had not yet been fully realised, and that they, the Church, had to strive to bring about these promises of peace, love and universal fraternity. They proclaimed Jesus as Lord, in a context in which it was always clear they were not identifying Jesus with God the Father, but relating to the Father in a uniquely special way.
In the busy tongues of spring
There’s an angel carolling.
Kneeling low in any place,
We may see the Father’s face;
Standing quiet anywhere,
Hear our Lady speaking fair;
And in daily marketings
Feel the rush of beating wings.
Watching always, wonderingly,
All the faces passing by,
There we see through pain and wrong
Christ look out, serene and strong.
Let Mary Webb bring us her Easter vision. Although she was a Shropshire woman, she spent some time in London, where these faces were passing CD.
(Image from Polyvore.com)
Saul of Tarsus/ St. Paul was a person who engaged with life and his faith and quickly came to terms with them. As a Jew, he responded with wholehearted zeal to God’s will as he saw it, persecuting the Christians. As a Christian, he was equally as wholehearted and zealous in travelling around preaching the Good News. As he said in today’s reading: “I am ”.
How was he able to confidently proclaim this, considering the insecurity of his lifestyle: hunger, cold, accidents, thieves, and so on? The reason for his confidence was his faith: “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength”. Paul was speaking of God, the One Who will help us in all our difficulties if only we turn to Him and trust Him. He was ready to put up with anything to attain his goal of making Christ known and loved, to help others to grow in relationship with God. He knew that, as the Psalmist said, God was “a shield about Him”.
Although Paul knew that he was dependent on God for everything, he also knew that God works through people. It has been said that on this earth He has no hands but ours, no feet but ours. The Philippians had helped Paul with their gifts. Paul was delighted at their generosity, not only because it would help him, but also because, in his words, it would be “interest mounting up in their account” with God. They were learning that, as Jesus had said, the way to love God whom one could not see was to show love to one’s brothers and sisters.
Paul’s attitudes challenge us: have we got faith enough to face whatever situations we encounter with complete trust? And do we show our faith by our actions?
NW Tower, Chichester Cathedral.
The spirit of discord and hatred that is evident today needs God’s grace to overcome it. With God’s grace we can be instruments of his mercy and peace at a personal level. A simple ‘Good Morning’, in whatever language, is a word of peace. A smile, a compliment, a helping hand, a joke.
And perhaps we should travel to broaden the mind and heart. If we cannot leave home we can travel through the printed word or the television screen. And Christian, Jew or Muslim can pray these words of Saint Richard of Chichester:
May I see you more clearly,
Love you more dearly,
And follow you more nearly,
Day by Day.