Sunday, March 4, 2012

Winston Churchill wrote “Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.“

Jewish soldiers get first glimpse of the Western Wall

He is absolutely right! I have often said they are remarkable people –gifted in a special way and blessed by God. They had no homeland for 2,000 years yet held together and thrived no matter how scattered they were or how terribly persecuted. Like cream, they always rise to the top.

Where are the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Amorites? They disappeared; yet even though scattered over the face of the earth (called the Diaspora) the Jews have survived, remained intact, and have thrived. God made promises to Abraham that his seed would be unable to be counted — as the sand on the shore and the stars in the heavens.

Remarking on the Jews, of which he was one, St. Paul wrote: “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” ( Rom 11:29). These gifts and calling are readily apparent even now, 4,000 years later. I have always thought the existence of the Jews and their incredible impact on civilization – even though their numbers are relatively small — is a convincing proof of the existence of God and to his faithfulness. Imagine, there are only 13 million Jews in the whole world, yet look at the huge and disproportionate impact they exert on our society.

I was recently in a bookstore buying a pile of books on Jewish culture and history — the better to understand the Bible and the roots of Christianity. The woman at the counter was surprised and asked if I was a Jew. I said, “Not by ethnicity, but certainly by affinity since I am a Catholic. I love the Jewish people and spend a lot of time in Israel.” She looked around, hesitating, and then said quietly, “I’m Jewish.”

I smiled and reached out my hand to shake hers. I said, “Congratulations. You are one of the great proofs of God’s existence. I envy you.” She was shocked — “No one has ever congratulated me for being Jewish before,” she said.

Our late Pope referred to the Jewish people as our elder brothers — and so they are. It might be just a story, though it may also be true, that once when the Pope and the head Rabbi of Rome were going into St. Peters, the Rabbi motioned for the Pope to step in first. But the Pope stopped and gestured for the Rabbi to precede him saying, “The Old Testament first!”

There was great wisdom here. The Bible is Jewish. Only one biblical writer was a gentile and the Old Testament is 90% of what we carry in the book called the Bible. The New Testament only makes up 1/10th of the book. The Church may be the branches and the fruit, but the roots and truck of our tree are certainly Jewish.

And considering those who hate the Jews, I love the little ditty that goes like this: “How odd of God to choose the Jews, but odder still are those who choose the Jewish God and hate the Jew.”

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