Jewish-Christian Martyrology and the Shoah

We must believe that all the suffering of Israel, persecuted by pagans because of its Election, is a part of the Messiah’s suffering, just as the killing of the children in Bethlehem makes up a part of Christ’s passion. Otherwise, God himself would appear incoherent regarding his promise to Israel. If Christian theology is unable to inscribe in its vision of the Redemption, of the mystery of the Cross, that Auschwitz (the Shoah) also makes up a part of Christ’s suffering, then we have reached the summit of absurdity. The persecution of God’s Chosen is not a crime like other crimes of which mankind is capable. It is a crime directly linked to the Election, and, therefore, to the Jewish condition. We must be willing to go that far in our understanding of these events.

It is precisely because of this initial “setting aside” of Israel that the nations have persecuted it, regardless of the practical and historical conditions that have resulted from this persecution and regardless of the practical, social, and cultural consequences that must have provoked or explained such attitudes.

The words I have just spoken can only be said, can only be thought, by Christ’s disciples, in their prayer before the crucified Christ. These words can have meaning only for those followers of the crucified Jesus who accept to share his Passion. These words are apart of Christ’s secret which is entrusted solely to his disciples. And when this secret is revealed to the world, it provokes derision, insult, the spittle of disgust. It is ridiculed. This secret—for it truly is a secret—can only be borne in compassion with Christ. This can be recognized only in faith, because it concerns the very idea we have of God. It means pushing the scandal of the Passion to its limit. It evokes, shockingly and provocatively, the meditation of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” It drives the disciple of Christ up against a wall, where he can only listen to the Father’s silence and share this silence with the Son. It compels the disciple to receive Christ’s dead body in his arms. Consequently, it plunges us into the scandal of faith, where our faithfulness itself is tested and its only recourse is Christ’s faithfulness, where the only way to endure such a moment is to trust completely in Christ. He alone can bear his passion in faithfulness. He alone —because he is the Son and he voluntarily enters into this path of obedience — can open for us by his Passion his obedience, the meaning of the scandal of Job’s suffering and attest that the Father is truly love and faithfulness.

To be able to recognize this is not only a secret but a God-given grace, the very grace of Christian faith and faithfulness. It can be received only in the prayer of those who believe in Christ, the suffering and hidden Messiah.

But even for Israel, its own suffering is an enigma. The Christian cannot explain it to the people of Israel. He can only do as Christ does when he enters in the silence of his Passion. Christ does not explain his Passion: he announces it and enters it in silence. The only way in which he invites his disciples to understand it is to follow him. And the only way the disciples respond is by running away. The measure of their unfaithfulness is Christ’s passion. Not one of his disciples has the strength to follow Christ in his Passion, not even those he has specially invited to do so. The disciples can follow Christ in his Passion only at the price of forgiveness — the forgiveness given to Peter and the grace given by the Risen Christ who shows his wounds and bestows the Holy Spirit.

For Israel, its own suffering is a scandal that leads it either to stumble in its faith or else to place its trust, still more obscurely and more incomprehensibly, in God’s faithfulness. How, at the end of history, will God recognize Christ in all those who have been given to him? It is the unfathomable mystery of his mercy.

Lustiger, Jean-Marie. The Promise. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2007. 50.

Jesus’ identity as the individual embodiment of the Jewish people thus affects not only the Jews of his own day but also all Jews of future generations. It is not only the martyrs of the Church whose suffering is linked to the atoning work of Jesus, but also the martyrs of the Jewish people. . . As those joined inextricably to their Messiah, the Jewish people become a test of whether the Church has truly received Jesus as her Lord. . . If Christians treat the Jewish people as just another ethnicity, without any special connection to Jesus and the Church, they show that they are not yet worthy to be called Christians.

Kinzer, Mark, and Christoph Von Schönborn. Searching Her Own Mystery: Nostra Aetate, the Jewish People, and the Identity of the Church. 15.


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