Monday within the Octave of Easter
(Acts 2:24.22-23; Matthew 28:8-15)
In 1945 Easter was also celebrated on April 1. On that day Giuseppe Girotti, a young Italian Dominican priest, was executed in Dachau. His crime was aiding and abetting the Jewish people who were being severely persecuted by the Nazis in northern Italy. Fr. Girotti, a Scripture scholar, felt a profound solidarity with Jews through his study of the Old Testament. He considered them his “elder brothers” in the faith. His story belies the sentiments of Christians who have felt animosity toward Jews because of the report found in today’s gospel.
Matthew’s gospel is severely critical of Jews probably because of the time it was written. Most exegetes date the gospel to after the fall of Jerusalem when Jews were redefining their religious practices. They forcibly excluded Christians from synagogue services. The violence resulted in the portrayal of Jews as almost universally disdainful of Christ. Only in Matthew’s gospel, for example, do the Jews tell Pilate that both they and their children would be responsible for Christ’s blood. Jewish leaders bribing the Roman soldiers in today’s passage corresponds to this defamatory narrative.
Certainly Fr. Girotti’s sense that Christians have much to thank Jews for corresponds better with Jesus’ teaching, actions, and resurrection from the dead. Everywhere, and especially in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus exhorts his followers to forgive. He never curses anyone throughout his ordeal. Indeed, he died and was raised so that the sins of all might be forgiven.