Monday, November 21, 2011

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Daniel 1:1-6.8-20; Luke 21:1-4)

Jews are often thought of as competitive even to the point of being merciless. Certainly Shakespeare views the Jew Shylock in this vain. The foil to the protagonist of his drama “The Merchant of Venice” would have a man die in retaliation for all the affronts that he and his people have received. More intricate but, on a superficial level at least, just as belligerent the Jewish lead character of the movie “The Pawnbroker” looks down on the non-Jews who surround him. However, knowing the Scriptures should leave us with an opposite evaluation of Jews.

Although it is true that the Pharisees are depicted in the gospels as hypocritical defenders of the Jewish Law, they need not be considered ideal or even iconic Jews. Jesus, of course, is a Jew until the day he dies. So is his mother Mary whose Jewishness the Church celebrates on this feast of her presentation in the Temple. Daniel and his confreres in the first reading today might be considered ideal as they are willing to sacrifice the pleasure of eating succulent meat and tasting choice wine in order to observe the kosher laws. The poor widow hailed by Jesus as truly generous is also Jewish.

Our responsibility is not just to refrain from demonizing Jews. Rather we should recognize and be grateful to them. Some of their literature is dismissive of Christ and probably contemptuous of Christianity. But they have contributed enormously to Western civilization and have maintained the Covenant into which our Savior is born.