Christian and Jewish Relations

Importance and value of the work of Jewish-Christian Dialogue

Dialogue with the Jewish people is crucial for our self-understanding as Christians. How can we speak of ourselves without reference to our roots and without understanding that without the Jewish people we, as Christians, would not exist? As St Paul says in his letter to the Romans:

“You a wild olive shoot were grafted in..to share the rich root of the olive tree…remember that it is not you that support the root but the root that supports you.” (11.17-18)

Remembering that Jesus was Jewish, Mary, his mother was Jewish and the first apostles were all Jewish, changes many of our attitudes. We are also drawn into this story of relationship between ourselves as Christians and the Jewish people in the time of Jesus and through the centuries to the present day. As Saint John Paul II said in the synagogue in Mainz in 1980:

“The Jewish religion is not ‘extrinsic’ to us, but in a certain way is ‘intrinsic’ to our religion. With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship that we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly loved brothers and in a certain way it could be said you are our elder brothers.”

The essence of friendship with people of other faiths is rooted in the love of God. God’s love is for all peoples and all creation.

Through dialogue we come to understand our own rich tradition in new ways which are vital for self-understanding, for the future of society and for the future of the world. “We have begun to seek a real encounter; we have contributed to mutual understanding of each other, and we have woven friendships. We have a sharper awareness that the world can no longer tolerate reciprocal ignorance, indifference and suspicion, we see more clearly that it is our duty to enter into dialogue in order to better our world and to purify our Church of the sin of division.” (Walter Kasper)

Saint John Paul 11 said “Dialogue is not so much an idea to be studied as a way of living in a positive relationship with others.”

Journeying with Jewish friends over many years I have discovered a deeper, more rooted love of my own tradition and a more profound understanding of our Christian faith. I have come to appreciate how the Jewish people perceive themselves today and to respect and love their friendship. I also recognise the pain of our relationship through the centuries. I recognise that our journey together makes me read our sacred scriptures in a different way “a more Godlike way”. Since Vatican II we have started a journey. We have a lifetime to walk this path and to work together and to learn from each other.

“In order to be a blessing for the world, Jews and Christians need first to be a blessing for each other”. Saint Pope John Paul II

Sr Teresa Brittain