Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 22 – Sag niemals nie! Never say never!
Before Father Alexámenos answered, the Rabbi continued with an intensity his priest friend enjoyed so much it all almost set him to laughing, wishing all his interlocutors had the intelligence and, he suspected, the streak of mischievousness of the Rabbi. “The Old Covenant must effectively be replaced by the New Covenant inasmuch as the Old is to be fulfilled and transformed in the New. The Old Covenant cannot be salvific on its own, even before any Messiah comes, for the Old had to look forward to the New, which fills it with Life back in the day. Time is not a barrier to its Creator. If the view is that the New has come, the Old must necessarily become sterile, even if it is not purposely cut off from the New, and no matter how much God respects the sincerity of Jews who do not even know what Christianity is. In that case, God gives grace to the Jews simply as His gratuitous gift, but not because God makes valid what cannot be made valid in the Old Covenant except in its present day fulfilment in the New.” Since Father Alexámenos did not interject, the Rabbi continued: “Your Cardinal Froben, nevertheless, gives us the lowest common denominator of no one having any covenant, telling us, absurdly, that both the Old and the New Covenant can be salvific at the same time. If the Old Covenant doesn’t look forward to the New, it is not actually the Old Covenant we are talking about, and if the New Covenant doesn’t fulfil the Old, it is not actually the New Covenant we are talking about. Two independent, salvific covenants are two other religions, neither Jewish or Catholic. Froben and his kind must stop insulting our intelligence. Tell me you understand!”
“Rabbi, I know exactly what you are…”
“Do you?” pressed the Rabbi.
“I regret,” said Father Alexámenos, “that Cardinal Froben has scandalously claimed that our aim in a dialogue is not to come into any kind of communion or unity, but simply to improve constantly those relationships and to work together. What he says is not what the Church nor I believe. I’m for unity in Charity and Truth. Saint Paul goes out of his way to say that…”
“I wonder about your regret,” interrupted the Rabbi, “Your Saint Paul makes it clear that he loves the Jews,” said the Rabbi, “but Froben and those like him do not seem to know who Paul of Tarsus is. They take every opportunity to send us to Auschwitz again. Take that document on the Shoah…”
“In reading that document, I just couldn’t believe that…” Father Alexámenos began to say.
“You Catholics,” interrupted the Rabbi, “speak of your Tradition as Faith provided by the Holy Spirit to each person so univocally throughout time that it seems as if this Tradition is created with each person handing on, so to speak, a book to another person. Yet, you Catholics always spoke of any human involvement as merely ‘quasi per manus’, ‘almost by hand,’ so that Tradition is God’s work. It is part of Revelation, God-given Faith, going hand in hand with Sacred Scripture, inspired by God, authored by God, using human authors to whom He gave the Faith, this Tradition. It seems as if the Faith is handed on as a thing, by hand, since it is always the same.”
“That is true,” said Father Alexámenos. “In fact…”
The Rabbi, instead, wanted to make his point, and said, “We Jews believe the same thing about Tradition and Faith, but we use different words. Tradition for us is our own assent to the Faith as found with our historical ‘handing on’ of commentary by which we ‘soil our hands’, as with the Mishna, Tosepta and Talmud. This Tradition is not rendered ‘quasi per manus’, ‘almost by hand’, but actually by hand without the direct intervention of divinely given Faith. That is why the Mishna, Tosepta and Talmud are not even read in our liturgy. But much more than this, we believe that the Torah, the Prophets and Writings were not only written with assent to the Faith, like this other commentary, but were also revealed and written under inspiration which we instead speak of as being eternal words. I can understand that you Catholics can be confused by the different use of terminology. However, I don’t like it when you so easily take a polemical statement and make it representative of what Jews believe. For instance, just because of a few of our comments, you might think that the Prophets and Writings have nothing within them that is as essential to Judaism as the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. Yet, the establishment of the Davidic line is essential to whom God wants us to be, namely, a holy People being led by one person who is a priest, a prophet and a king. The New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah 31:31-34 is also essential to whom God wanted us to be. Check out 1 Samuel 2:27-3. Do I need to mention the Suffering Servant described by Isaiah, and how he is the Son of David?” To think otherwise would make us Samaritans who reject the Prophets and Writings. Since when did Samaritans and Jews get along other than in that parable of Jesus?
“I’m sure that all these misunderstandings can be sorted out,” said Father Alexámenos.
“Are you so sure?” asked the Rabbi. “Why, then, do some Catholics so easily believe that the Jewish Scriptures were complete only after what you call the ætas apostolica, the apostolic age, within which even your New Testament had to be finished for it to be inspired and canonical?”
“But the Hebrew Scriptures were complete before Christ’s birth…” began Father Alexámenos.
But the Rabbi interrupted him, saying, “I’ll tell you why. Because you want to condemn us to Auschwitz all over again. If you say the Jewish Scriptures were not written in view of the coming Messiah, the fulness of Revelation, whom you believe to be Jesus, then your insincerity is evident. You are actually saying that you do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and that the Jewish Scriptures point to a different Messiah. In fact, you say that no Jew ever read in the Jewish Scriptures what you read in the Jewish Scriptures, thus making even your Jesus into the greatest liar and fraud of all time, or at least those who wrote the New Testament, which, for you, makes the Holy Spirit into the greatest liar and fraud. You run away from the problem by saying that Catholics and Jews have two Faiths which are so ‘irreducible’ that we Jews not only would never become Christian – believing in Jewish Jesus as the Jewish Messiah – but could never do so. What an insult! What hatred of the Jews! If we are so cut off, in your view, from knowing the fulfilment of the Old Covenant in the New Covenant promised by Jeremiah, cut off from knowing the fulness of Revelation, of the Messiah’s Charity, that He is the Davidic Priest, Prophet and King, why not just condemn us to hell forever, as if we want to kill the Messiah. Auschwitz, here we come!”
“But Rabbi, those who say we have two different Faiths are heretics. In my dream…”
“Don’t deny that this is the only problem, as if answering it – even with your ‘dream’ – will be the end of it all,” said the Rabbi. “How about when your Preacher said that you Catholics cannot invite us to believe in Christ? He said that you have lost the right to do so because of some mistakes of some people who used coercion. He said that first the wounds must be healed through dialogue and reconciliation. But you have no basis for dialogue and reconciliation if you deny us Charity and Faith, the very things you hold dearest. You keep us away, as if you fear that we, if we did believe in Jesus as the Messiah, would brook no dissent within the Church, which I do not doubt for a second… We would be so passionate. That’s what you’re all afraid of!”
“I cannot wait for the hour when…” Father Alexámenos began to answer.
“We can reject you if we want. Don’t worry about that!” insisted the Rabbi, “but hold out to us Him whom you know to be Charity Incarnate. Do not refuse to love us! Otherwise, the sins of the past become reality again. What hypocrisy it is to keep screaming about the Shoah, Never again! Plus jamais! Nie wieder! when that is just what you are about to do again. Sag niemals nie! Never say never! It can happen again. All the pieces are falling right into place. For hypocrites, wir leben nur als Last, but life is only a burden for those who hate life.”
“The cry Never again! is so often just self-congratulations, proclaiming that humanity does not glut itself as much as it can on violence, so that religion – added on top of this feigned general human niceness – merely adds more, optional niceness,” said Father Alexámenos. Religious people with this attitude are so dangerous. “Anyway, that preacher is just a simple priest, who…”
“If it’s a Cardinal you want,” interrupted the Rabbi, “how about the one who said that we are all waiting for the Messiah? At least he was severely criticised for saying what he did.”
“Yes, I distinctly remember the occasion. Some in the Ghetto felt sorry for him, even for contradictory reasons. He said that dialogue would continue until the Lord comes, meaning that he didn’t expect the Jews to become Catholic until then. But then it is too late. Saint Paul says that only a part of Israel will be hardened, and only until the fulness of the nations enter. When they do enter, that other part of Israel will also become Catholic, and, then, and only then, the Lord will come. Telling people that they are not supposed to become Catholic until it is too late is evil.”
“Evil?” asked the Rabbi, “not ignorant, misled, sycophantic perhaps?”
“Perhaps he didn’t mean it, but what he said is evil. It doesn’t advance justice, peace or unity.”
“Now you’re getting it,” said the Rabbi. “To me, they are all following those anti-Semites whom your Secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission thankfully reprimanded just two and half years after the Shoah for their having asserted that the first chapters of Genesis were related ‘en un langage simple et figuré, adapté aux intelligences d’une humanité moins développée…’ The problem is that no one but no one agreed with him on this important Act of the Apostolic See.”
“Pius XII thought he was a bit of a Zeitgeist,” Father Alexámenos responded.
“Don’t get me started!” exclaimed the Rabbi.
“Your not one of those ridiculous ‘Hitler’s Pope’ rabbis are you?” asked Father Alexámenos, fully expecting a negative answer.
“What I complain about regarding Pius XII,” the Rabbi responded just as incisively, “is that you are all afraid to canonize him. You are fools!”
“Look,” countered Father Alexámenos. “If Genesis were written ‘in a simple and figurative language, adapted to the understandings of a less developed humanity’” – and then using air quotes – “‘adapted to the intelligences of a less developed humanity’,” it would mean that the account of Genesis either had to have been written by a non-Semite, who pitied the stupidity of the Semites, or that another descendant of Abraham not having written the account, simply caught it as it dropped out of the sky. But all of that goes against what we both believe about the inspiration of the sacred writer. It’s completely ridiculous. We’re not Muslims! And I agree, it says a lot that the Secretary of the Commission actually had to smack down a dangerous racist attitude even while the last of the ashes of the ovens of Auschwitz were filtering down from the darkened skies. Those he was smacking down were clearly not saying that Abraham’s descendants were simply lacking in culture at a particular period of their history, but that they were stupid because their very humanity had not developed, as if they were neanderthals, for, as it is, one can be intelligent, and understand, even if one’s culture is not developed.”
“You amaze me,” said the Rabbi. “I’ve never in all my days met someone quite like you, not even…”
But before the Rabbi could mention his friend in the See of Peter, Father Alexámenos continued. He was on his soapbox. “That document has been cited ad nauseam by biblical scholars and theologians, but they give it the opposite meaning. I’ve been trying to get to the identities of those to whom the Biblical Commission’s Secretary was responding. I can guess, but…”
“Your little investigations won’t solve anything, Father,” said the Rabbi dismissively, wanting this priest to be prudent in these matters, but wondering how it was he could be thinking along the same lines as himself.
“And I should warn you of something as well, Rabbi,” said Father Alexámenos, trying to inject some humour into the conversation at the expense of Libreria editrice Vaticana: “Be careful not to be sued for citing Vatican documents verbatim. It could cost you as much as…”
“Thirty pieces of silver?” asked the Rabbi. “I would only betray my own interests in not citing those documents. And, for goodness’ sake! It’s only a conversation.” After a moment, he laughed, and said, “Oh, I see… It would be rather difficult for them to defend their copyright so as to silence a voice against anti-Semitism. Hah!” Both he and Father Alexámenos laughed the laugh of the sadness one has when faced with ignorance before which it seems one can do nothing.
“As it is,” said Father Alexámenos, “I never hesitate to offer an examination of conscience to those who have governance in the Church by way of the characters in the stories I write.”
“Savonarola redivivus, only better,” said the Rabbi, chuckling. “I’d like to read your works.”
“I would be most honoured,” said Father Alexámenos, “but I’ve lost everything in Haïti. My luggage with everything precious to me was stolen and destroyed. Almost everything…” he added, thinking of the picture of his family at his first Holy Communion.
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” said the Rabbi. “Truly. Something like that happened to me when I was a student. I had spent months at the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai writing about one particular manuscript there, only to have everything confiscated on return bus trip by bandits. Not to worry. Disasters like that only make a second try better.”
After reflecting on the conversation for some moments, Father Alexámenos said, “Rabbi, when I say that the Pope should express regret for a past mistakes of members of the Church – and with the Pope now being Jewish – I do not mean to say that the Church should embark on a process of hypocritical self-absolution. Regret must be accompanied by the fruits of repentance. For instance, if anyone speaks bigoted, ambiguous rubbish – whether or not they understand what they are saying – real penal, medicinal sanctions are to be given to them.”
“Yes, that would be good,” said the Rabbi. “It’s called governance, being a father.”
“The trouble is that those with hierarchical responsibility to be fathers to the family of faith add insult to injury,” added Father Alexámenos, “while their subjects, who thirst to see the fatherhood of the hierarchy in action, are then marginalised by way of the abuse of authority.”
“I’m sick of mea culpa apologies for something one didn’t do,” said the Rabbi. “That’s hype. Mind you, I don’t think apologies coming from your Popes had that intention, however much your theologians looked at it that way for ulterior motives. It wasn’t so much a mea culpa as regret for the bigotry of others. Regret is always appreciated if, as you say, it is followed by actions different form those about whom one is expressing regret. In this case of no one getting what your Biblical Commission said – which is so conveniently overlooked until this day – I appreciate your regret, but I want Pope Tsur-Ēzer to express regret, not for himself or the Church, but for those who thought that the descendants of Abraham were the imbeciles of a less developed humanity. That in itself would help the cause of Eugenio Pacelli. That Pope, by his action and discretion, was more of a friend to us than anyone else during the Shoah. Without his discretion, many more would have died. More recently, this kind of discretion was seen in many places in Rwanda, saving many lives.”
Father Alexámenos said, “While we speak I am reminded of a priest I met from Africa. He told me that if he were to be caught up in a genocide, he would imitate Peter denying our Lord three times, with the intention of being able to serve our Lord another day…” Father Alexámenos paused for some seconds, but finally said, “My dream went on; it has to do with the legitimacy of violence in the Holy Land.”
“I’m afraid to ask you to go on,” said the Rabbi, “but, please, continue.”
Rabbi Shelomoh took a sip of his orange juice. Father Alexámenos also took a drink from his cup, and looked thoughtfully at the can. Surprisingly, it said that the provenance of the juice was not a place like Groveland, Florida, but rather the citrus groves of Jericho, which Father Alexámenos pointed out to the Rabbi.
“I’ve never understood why some people call Jericho’s oranges ‘Cleopatras’,” said the Rabbi.
“The next scene of the dream,” said Father Alexámenos, “is of the adulterous woman dragged in front of Jesus. She is just about to be stoned to death.”
“Yes, I also know that story,” said the Rabbi. “I regret that many have thrown it out of your New Testament, out of the Gospel of John.”
“Including some of our Cardinals,” said Father Alexámenos. “At any rate, in my dream, instead of stoning the woman to death, they are dropping their stones, walking away with smiles on their faces, looking as if they had the Messiah where they wanted Him. As each went his way, only a soldier who had been behind the crowd remained. With demonic violence, he threw his rock. As it flew through the air, the scene changed to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ was praying a stone’s throw from his apostles. As the rock was about to hit not her, but Him, the scene again changed to Calvary. The rock turned into a spear piercing His side, for He was already on the Cross. All of this took place on the Rock of Sacrifice.”
“And the faces of the crowd, the woman and the soldier?” asked the Rabbi.
“The same. They all had the face of Christ taking their place,” said Father Alexámenos.
“And the Rock was Christ?” asked the Rabbi, quoting Saint Paul.
“Yes,” answered Father Alexámenos.
“But why shouldn’t she suffer so as to make up for the sufferings lacking to Christ,” asked the Rabbi, referring to Saint Paul, and wanting to entrap Father Alexámenos in a contradiction.
“The justice demanded for the legitimacy of mercy and the pedagogy necessary for this,” replied Father Alexámenos, “was perfectly and forever fulfilled in Christ, for He is a divine Person. We believe, Rabbi, that, in being redeemed, we are incorporated into the Body of Christ. Any lack in the sufferings of Christ refers to the mercy we are yet to receive, including the grace of witnessing to this mercy no matter what, a martyrdom which can include death, or simply praising God while living in this world, which always involves a death to our fallen ways.”
“Is that all there is to your dream?” asked the Rabbi with feigned disdain.
“Saint Stephen getting stoned to death with the help of Saul,” said Father Alexámenos.
“You are completely without shame, aren’t you?” asked Rabbi Shelomoh. “Other Catholics I know hate that incident, thinking that what Steven said on that occasion is embarrassing to modern day Catholics, that it is politically incorrect, that he should not have insisted so thoroughly that Jews and Christians have but one Faith, that he should not have said that the Jews were now simply resisting the grace of the Holy Spirit being given to them, as did their Fathers.”
“Rabbi, God wanted Steven’s martyrdom – which he underwent out of love for the Jews – to be an occasion of grace for the conversion of many, of whatever time or place, including that of Saul into Saint Paul. It was not merely Steven’s love, but Christ’s in him. People still like to see this Charity in action, that of Christ doing the will of our Heavenly Father, laying down His life for us. Yet, it is not so much the Jews who would put Steven to death today as much as those Catholics who have strayed far from the Truth of the one Faith shared by Catholics and Jews.”
“So, let me insist on this,” said the Rabbi. “After all this I want to hear you repeat it. Do you really think that the fulfilment of the Old Covenant with the New Covenant must be a fulfilment, and not something absolutely different? Do you really think that Jesus, as the Jewish Messiah, fulfilled Judaism? Do you really think that neither of us would have any Faith if this were not true?”
“That is what I believe, Rabbi. If Jesus did not die and rise for us all, our Faith, that is, our Faith is in vain. Even if you do not yet see that He is the Messiah, it is from Him that you receive the gift of Faith, as long as you do not reject Him after having come to know that He is the Messiah.”
“Are you telling me that you are another one of those universal salvationists, who say that everyone is saved regardless of their religion?” asked the Rabbi.
“Instead, the case of the Jews not believing in Jesus as the Messiah is analogous to Saint Thomas Aquinas regarding the fulness of the truth of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. He believed this by way of supernatural Faith, though not entirely with an assent to anything understood by his intellect. As long as he wasn’t malicious, he believed with this supernatural virtue, just as we believe that a baptised infant enjoys this supernatural virtue of infused Faith, of sanctifying grace as we call it, even though that baby cannot yet think and then give assent to anything.”
“I see,” said the Rabbi, unable to find any hypocrisy in the words of Father Alexámenos. “In order to stop the endless cycle of violence, it seems to be expedient for everyone to be Catholic.”
“Anyone who pretends to be a Catholic for ulterior motives would be living a lie,” said Father Alexámenos, “which goes hand in hand with a continuous spiral of violence.”
“But what you are really saying is that today’s Jews and Muslims who are not becoming Catholics are guilty of all the violence in the world,” asserted the Rabbi, keeping an eye on the Muhammedan seated in the row ahead of them.
“Many Catholics are guilty of atrocities,” replied Father Alexámenos. “They do not act as Catholics. They do not live out the Faith. I believe that any Jews, Muslims, Catholics or others, who go out of their way to reject Christ, knowing who He is, knowing His goodness, kindness and mercy as the Messiah of God – but reject Him anyway – lay themselves open to being violent as the only way to salvation. Jews could claim that they have the divine right to kill any non-Jew, even children, in the Holy Land, while Muslims may say they have a right to be there, given Muhammad’s dream journey, and so have the right to kill Jews and Christians, even children, that they may claim to be ‘invaders.’ For Jews, Abraham’s would-be child-sacrifice of Isaac would be understood like that of Ishmael by Abraham as imagined in the Qur’an, as nothing more than bribing one’s way into the favour of a blood-thirsty god. Catholics would lose their Faith in the Sacrifice of the Son of God, the Mass, the Last Supper and Calvary, the Child-Sacrifice, if you will, of our Heavenly Father. They would be soft, defined by political correctness, begging for Catholics to lose the Faith, condemning those getting baptised, mocking prayer and goodness and kindness and truth. They would not understand that Jesus’ laying down His life for us was fulfilling the justice demanded by His having mercy on us, saying, from the Cross, ‘Father, forgive them…’”
“For myself,” said the Rabbi, approaching the topic from a different angle, “I have often wondered how it is that a handful of rabbis had the hubris to decide, at the end of the first century in Jamnia, that there was to be no more Revelation, especially anything written down in Greek. How did they know?! How could they pretend to gag the Most High?! They didn’t want to see anything written in Greek, for the New Testament was written in Greek, and most of the citations made by the New Testament were made from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Most Jews at the time kept using the Greek translation, the Septuagint. No one rejected the comments being put together which we now call the Talmud, but no one thought of those comments as Revelation truly and properly speaking…”
“And so…” interrupted Father Alexámenos, overloaded with information. “What’s the point?”
The Muhammadan in the row of seats ahead of them was not ignoring them. He was busy uploading into his computer the digital recording he made of part of the conversation.
“If there was to be no more Revelation,” said the Rabbi, “violence is not a pedagogical means to teach about the Suffering Servant, the Messiah, who, for us, is yet to come. Do you get it?”
“Please, explain,” replied Father Alexámenos, enthralled that there may be an answer to some violence in the Holy Land.
“If there is to be no more Revelation from that time onward, then Revelation is complete. All pedagogical exercises about the gravity of sin are complete. But the Messiah must be the fulfilment of Revelation, the fulness of Revelation. The Rabbis in Jamnia were trying to make the Messiah redundant, forbidding Him to come. The only way we Jews can embrace violence as our Salvation, systematically exterminating the Palestinians, is by claiming that we have the fulness of Revelation even as we deny the Messiah. The contradiction is outrageous. The Law, Prophets and Writings point straight to Jesus, who must not, who cannot permit ethnic cleansing.”
“You should publish that,” Father Alexámenos said with feigned reserve, enthusiastically but mistakenly thinking he was going to hear a request for Baptism. “But what do you mean?”
“All I know, for now, is that, one way or the other – and despite what the inane Christian Zionists think – we are not to do any ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians just because they live in the Promised Land,” replied the Rabbi. “Imagine, the murderous Christian Zionists held a raucous party in Silwan after nineteen Palestinians were murdered. But all that aside… tell me, Catholic priest, who is the most guilty of the death of Jesus?”
“You make me think of my own life, Rabbi… but to answer your question, each one of us is most guilty, for God loves us, each of us, so much… which means that the question isn’t so much about being the most guilty, but who is closest – by mercy – to the Heart of God. That place is reserved for the Mother of the Messiah, the Woman of Genesis 3,15.”
Up next: Chapter 23 – So, that’s your problem?
© International 2005-2018 – George David Byers