Friday, November 27, 2015

Cardinal Kasper on the Prayer for the Jews

St Paul of Tarsus
In case anyone has forgotten, back in 2008 when Pope Benedict's Prayer for the Jews, for use in the Extraordinary Form Good Friday Liturgy, it was explained and defended by Cardinal Kasper, among others.

Cardinal Kasper's is a particular way of understanding the question of the conversion of the Jews. While I appreciate the sensitivies, I would not be comfortable with a blanket condemnation of 'targeted' evangelical outreach to Jews, as for example that taken by the Jewish convert Alphonse Ratisbon in the late 19th century. Cardinal Kasper does not make such a condemnation, but it might seem implicit in what he says. It is important, however, that he makes the point that we don't hide our witness to the Faith from Jews, and that our belief in the universal validity of Christ's redemption, and their rejection of this, has to be the basis of an honest dialogue.

If Cardinal Kasper has no problem with Pope Benedict's Prayer for the Jews, then it seems pretty surprising that anyone in the Church should have a problem with it. His affirmation that, obviously, Christ died for all men, could usefully be underlined.

The full text is here; I paste in highlights.

Unlike the 1970 text, the new formulation of the 1962 text speaks of Jesus as the Christ and as the salvation of all men, and therefore also of the Jews.
Many have understood this affirmation as new and unfriendly toward the Jews. But this is founded on the New Testament as a whole (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4), and indicates the fundamental difference, known everywhere, that endures for both the Christians and the Jews. Even if it is not explicitly mentioned in "Nostra Aetate," nor in the prayer of 1970 , "Nostra Aetate" cannot be removed from the context of all the other conciliar documents, nor can the Good Friday prayer of the Missal of 1970 be removed from the entirety of the liturgy of Good Friday that has as its object that conviction of the Christian faith.

The new formulation of the prayer for Good Friday in the Missal of 1962, therefore, does not really say anything new, but only expresses what until now was taken as obvious, but which evidently, in many dialogues, was not sufficiently explained.

The real controversial question is: should Christians pray for the conversion of the Jews? Can there be a mission to the Jews?

Such prayers for the coming of the Kingdom of God and for the realization of the mystery of salvation, according to their nature, are not an appeal addressed to the Church asking it to carry out missionary activity toward the Jews. Instead, they respect all of the unfathomable depth of the "Deus absconditus," of His election through grace, of the hardening of the heart as of His infinite mercy.

With its prayer, the Church, therefore, does not assume control of the realization of the inscrutable mystery. It cannot do so in any way. But rather, it leaves all of the "when" and the "how" of this realization in the hands of God. Only God can bring about His Kingdom, in which all Israel will be saved and eschatological peace will come to the world.

The exclusion of a targeted and institutionalized mission to the Jews does not mean that Christians must stand around with their hands in their pockets. Targeted and organized mission on one side, and Christian witness on the other, must be distinguished. Naturally, Christians must, where it is opportune, give to their older brothers and sisters in the faith of Abraham (John Paul II) a witness of their own faith and of the richness and beauty of their faith in Christ. Paul did this as well. During his missionary journeys, Paul always went first to the synagogue, and only when he did not find faith there did he go to the pagans (Acts of the Apostles, 13:5,14ff., 42-52; 14:1-6 and others; Romans 1:16 is fundamental).

Such a witness is also asked of us today. It must of course be done with tact and respect; but it would be dishonest if Christians, in meeting with their Jewish friends, should remain silent about their own faith, or even deny it.

We expect just as much from believing Jews toward us. In the dialogues that I have known, this attitude is entirely normal. A sincere dialogue between Jews and Christians, in fact, is possible only, on the one hand, on the basis of a shared faith in one God, creator of heaven and earth, and in the promises made to Abraham and to the Fathers; and on the other, in the awareness and respect of the fundamental difference that consists in faith in Jesus as Christ and Redeemer of all men.

Full text here.

Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

No comments:

Post a Comment