Monday of the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time
(Acts 16:11-15; John 15:26-16:4)
Jews have been persecuted so much throughout history that it is hard to imagine them persecuting other peoples. Yet this is the claim of Palestinians today who say Israelis have occupied their land, especially in recent years on the West Bank. It is also the charge of Jesus in the gospel who foresees the eviction of Christians from Jewish synagogues.
Christians prayed alongside Jews for almost forty years after the crucifixion. We see this in the first reading where Paul goes to the riverside to meet the Jewish wives of pagan Greeks gathering there for prayer. Then, with the reforms of Judaism after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., Jews expelled Christians from synagogue worship. Jesus refers to this expulsion in the gospel where he says that he will send the Advocate, the Spirit of truth, to testify that Christians truly worship God.
This Advocate, whom we just call “the Holy Spirit,” remains with the Church in contemporary times. It assists her in discerning what is true and good. When necessary, it also defends her from persecution. The revisionist criticism of Pope Pius XII serves as an example. For nearly twenty years after World War II, Jews considered Pius XII a hero for his efforts to rescue the Italian Jewry from the Nazis. In the 1960s, however, critics began claiming that Pius was in league with the Nazis. With the help of the Spirit of truth scholars today are coming to the truth of the matter. Pius XII did act compassionately on behalf of many Jews. It is true that he might have spoken out more forcefully against Nazi persecution. However, such denouncement likely would have resulted in more, not less, persecution against Jews and prompted severe reprisals against the Church as well. We pray today that the Advocate continues to guide the Church and our own lives in ways of truth and goodness.