Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christianity and Judaism must be on the Forefront of Teaching Basic Moral Values

Fr. Ben Beltran, SVD, through his post has taken my attention on the issue of the groundbreaking statement on Christianity by a group of Orthodox Rabbis. The statement acknowledges the positive theological status of Christianity. A call for fraternal partnership of Jewish and Christian leaders. 

Here is the full text of the said statement.

December 3, 2015

To Do the Will of Our Father in Heaven:

Toward a Partnership between Jews and Christians

After nearly two millennia of mutual hostility and alienation, we Orthodox Rabbis who lead communities, institutions and seminaries in Israel, the United States and Europe recognize the historic opportunity now before us. We seek to do the will of our Father in Heaven by accepting the hand offered to us by our Christian brothers and sisters. Jews and Christians must work together as partners to address the moral challenges of our era.

1. The Shoah ended 70 years ago. It was the warped climax to centuries of disrespect, oppression and rejection of Jews and the consequent enmity that developed between Jews and Christians. In retrospect it is clear that the failure to break through this contempt and engage in constructive dialogue for the good of humankind weakened resistance to evil forces of anti-Semitism that engulfed the world in murder and genocide.

2. We recognize that since the Second Vatican Council the official teachings of the Catholic Church about Judaism have changed fundamentally and irrevocably. The promulgation of Nostra Aetate fifty years ago started the process of reconciliation between our two communities. Nostra Aetate and the later official Church documents it inspired unequivocally reject any form of anti-Semitism, affirm the eternal Covenant between G-d and the Jewish people, reject deicide and stress the unique relationship between Christians and Jews, who were called “our elder brothers” by Pope John Paul II and “our fathers in faith” by Pope Benedict XVI. On this basis, Catholics and other Christian officials started an honest dialogue with Jews that has grown during the last five decades. We appreciate the Church’s affirmation of Israel’s unique place in sacred history and the ultimate world redemption. Today Jews have experienced sincere love and respect from many Christians that have been expressed in many dialogue initiatives, meetings and conferences around the world.

3. As did Maimonides and Yehudah Halevi,[1] we acknowledge that Christianity is neither an accident nor an error, but the willed divine outcome and gift to the nations. In separating Judaism and Christianity, G-d willed a separation between partners with significant theological differences, not a separation between enemies. Rabbi Jacob Emden wrote that “Jesus brought a double goodness to the world. On the one hand he strengthened the Torah of Moses majestically… and not one of our Sages spoke out more emphatically concerning the immutability of the Torah. On the other hand he removed idols from the nations and obligated them in the seven commandments of Noah so that they would not behave like animals of the field, and instilled them firmly with moral traits…..Christians are congregations that work for the sake of heaven who are destined to endure, whose intent is for the sake of heaven and whose reward will not denied.”[2] Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch taught us that Christians “have accepted the Jewish Bible of the Old Testament as a book of Divine revelation. They profess their belief in the G-d of Heaven and Earth as proclaimed in the Bible and they acknowledge the sovereignty of Divine Providence.”[3] Now that the Catholic Church has acknowledged the eternal Covenant between G-d and Israel, we Jews can acknowledge the ongoing constructive validity of Christianity as our partner in world redemption, without any fear that this will be exploited for missionary purposes. As stated by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel’s Bilateral Commission with the Holy See under the leadership of Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, “We are no longer enemies, but unequivocal partners in articulating the essential moral values for the survival and welfare of humanity”.[4] Neither of us can achieve G-d’s mission in this world alone.

4. Both Jews and Christians have a common covenantal mission to perfect the world under the sovereignty of the Almighty, so that all humanity will call on His name and abominations will be removed from the earth. We understand the hesitation of both sides to affirm this truth and we call on our communities to overcome these fears in order to establish a relationship of trust and respect. Rabbi Hirsch also taught that the Talmud puts Christians “with regard to the duties between man and man on exactly the same level as Jews. They have a claim to the benefit of all the duties not only of justice but also of active human brotherly love.” In the past relations between Christians and Jews were often seen through the adversarial relationship of Esau and Jacob, yet Rabbi Naftali Zvi Berliner (Netziv) already understood at the end of the 19th century that Jews and Christians are destined by G-d to be loving partners: “In the future when the children of Esau are moved by pure spirit to recognize the people of Israel and their virtues, then we will also be moved to recognize that Esau is our brother.”[5]

5. We Jews and Christians have more in common than what divides us: the ethical monotheism of Abraham; the relationship with the One Creator of Heaven and Earth, Who loves and cares for all of us; Jewish Sacred Scriptures; a belief in a binding tradition; and the values of life, family, compassionate righteousness, justice, inalienable freedom, universal love and ultimate world peace. Rabbi Moses Rivkis (Be’er Hagoleh) confirms this and wrote that “the Sages made reference only to the idolator of their day who did not believe in the creation of the world, the Exodus, G-d’s miraculous deeds and the divinely given law. In contrast, the people among whom we are scattered believe in all these essentials of religion.”[6]

6. Our partnership in no way minimizes the ongoing differences between the two communities and two religions. We believe that G-d employs many messengers to reveal His truth, while we affirm the fundamental ethical obligations that all people have before G-d that Judaism has always taught through the universal Noahide covenant.

7. In imitating G-d, Jews and Christians must offer models of service, unconditional love and holiness. We are all created in G-d’s Holy Image, and Jews and Christians will remain dedicated to the Covenant by playing an active role together in redeeming the world.

Initial signatories (in alphabetical order):

Rabbi Jehoshua Ahrens (Germany)

Rabbi Marc Angel (United States)

Rabbi Isak Asiel (Chief Rabbi of Serbia)

Rabbi David Bigman (Israel)

Rabbi David Bollag (Switzerland)

Rabbi David Brodman (Israel)

Rabbi Natan Lopez Cardozo (Israel)

Rav Yehudah Gilad (Israel)

Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein (Israel)

Rabbi Irving Greenberg (United States)

Rabbi Marc Raphael Guedj (Switzerland)

Rabbi Eugene Korn (Israel)

Rabbi Daniel Landes (Israel)

Rabbi Steven Langnas (Germany)

Rabbi Benjamin Lau (Israel)

Rabbi Simon Livson (Chief Rabbi of Finland)

Rabbi Asher Lopatin (United States)

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin (Israel)

Rabbi David Rosen (Israel)

Rabbi Naftali Rothenberg (Israel)

Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger (Israel)

Rabbi Shmuel Sirat (France)

Rabbi Daniel Sperber (Israel)

Rabbi Jeremiah Wohlberg (United States)

Rabbi Alan Yuter (Israel)


[1] Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 11:4 (uncensored edition); Kuzari, section 4:22

[2] Seder Olam Rabbah 35-37; Sefer ha-Shimush 15-17.

[3] Principles of Education, “Talmudic Judaism and Society,” 225-227.

[4] Fourth meeting of the Bilateral Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jewry, Grottaferrata, Italy (19 October 2004).

[5] Commentary on Genesis 33:4.

[6] Gloss on Shulhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat, Section 425:5.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Tips of Making a Good Confession

I would like to share these tips from OSV Newsweekly on how to make a good confession not only on this time of advent but for all seasons.

Father Steve Schultz, parochial vicar of Our Lady of Angels Church in Woodbridge, Virginia, offers the following tips on going to confession:

1. Prayerfully prepare! It’s considerate to those who are waiting in line behind you, especially if they need to confess before Mass in order to receive.

2. Do this preparation with an examination of conscience. Many different kinds are available. There are ones based on the Ten Commandments; the Virtues; your particular vocation; for adults; for children; etc. Two general questions should lead to specifics: In what ways did I sin? In what way(s) did I fail to do the good I ought to have? 

3. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. Think about what you’ve made friends with that keeps you from a true friendship with God. We really do Greed? Pride? Selfishness? Being lukewarm? Lust? Fear? Too much bacon? (Is that even possible?) Seriously, though, think about your sins with respect to who or what you have favored more than God. 

4. Be ready to repent! “I’m done with this, that, and the other thing. I want to change, and I trust in the Lord to help me!” That should be your disposition to the sacrament. Your faith and repentance open your heart to God’s healing power! 

5. Go to confession! Do it! God promises mercy; He doesn’t promise tomorrow. 

6. Start by saying, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned, it has been X days/weeks/months/years/decades since my last confession and these are my sins...”

7. State your sins, in kind and in number if it is a serious sin. If it’s been a while since your last confession and you don’t remember the exact number, you can give some approximation, such as, “often,” “more than I can remember,” or “fortnightly.” Venial sins should be confessed by habit, but with serious (i.e., mortal) sin, don’t hold even a single one back! Put it all before the Lord. Trust Him. No sin is unforgivable as long as we repent. 

8. It’s not necessary to tell the story of your life since your last confession, give yourself advice, or expect hours of therapy. Confession isn’t meant to change the circumstances of your life. It is meant to give you a new heart so that you can “put on” the mind of Christ. 

9. You don’t have to say, “My biggest sin is...” because that is probably not your biggest sin. Your biggest sin is probably the same as mine, the same as most people: We don’t trust in God enough. 

10. Nor should you say, “I need to be better about X” because your dear priest can’t tell if that is a sin of omission (something you failed to do) or commission (something you did). Further, it doesn’t sound like you’re repenting of anything. 

11. Or, “and I know that’s wrong” because we know all sin is wrong. 

12. Don’t tell the priest other peoples’ sins unless you want to do other peoples’ penances. “For your penance pray three Our Fathers. For your wife’s penance make a pilgrimage to Ephesus on your knees, and when you return, eat that fruitcake she made for Christmas.” 

13. One last, very important “don’t.” Don’t give in to fear! There is nothing any of us can do that will make God love us any less! In confession there is no judgment, just mercy. (I probably should have led with that.) 

14. When you’re finished, LAND THE PLANE. “For these and all my sins I am truly sorry,” or suchlike. If you just stop talking, the priest thinks you are still thinking or that you died. Land the plane! 

15. Glorify the Lord’s mercy. If you want to be forgiven, healed, and freed, the Lord will do all that and much besides. Trust in His mercy! Know who you are: God’s daughter, God’s son!


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Vicariate of the Holy Family Harana Kay Maria

It was been decided in one of the Vicariate meetings that a Harana Kay Maria be held in the vicariate level, the parish of Saint Martin is doing it every year. It was been  set last October 16, 2015 in the parish of  the Holy Rosary. The celebration of the Mass at 6 in the evening and will be followed by the presentation of each parish that will render two songs. This is to Honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of God, who had shown us how to follow her Son and Savior with an unconditional faith.

The Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

The Serenade to Mary.