What does the cry of the people baying for blood during Christ's Passion really mean?
Much publicity has been given to that significant passage in Pope Benedict’s recent book, Jesus of Nazareth (page 187) when he discusses the cry of the people during the Passion: “His blood be on us and on our children (Matthew 27:25).”
At first the Holy Father analyses the elements that made up the crowd baying for Jesus’ blood: these are not the ‘Jewish people’ as such, but the dominant priestly circle and the followers of Barabbas.
Then, in an illuminating passage, the Pope reminds us that “the Christian will remember that Jesus’ blood speaks a different language from the blood of Abel; it does not cry out for vengeance and punishment; it brings reconciliation.” He emphasises that, “read in the light of faith, it means that we all stand in need of the purifying power of love, which is his blood. These words are not a curse, but rather redemption, salvation.”
This interpretation makes it clear there is no room for anti-Semitism in the Church. This makes me ask the question: “Why is it that among certain right-wing (I hate that expression when used in the context of the Church, but it can be useful) Catholics, those who attend the Tridentine Mass, there is anti-Semitism?”
I have encountered it myself: the odd remark that makes you sit up and wonder where that person is coming from; ‘under the counter’ literature with disturbing phrases and attitudes. When I referred to The Remnant in my blog for April 14, a friend warned me against giving this publication publicity as he had encountered an anti-Semitic strain in some of its articles.
Further to this, a good friend of mine, who is herself a convert from Judaism and who always attends the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, tells me she is sometimes very distressed by the blatantly anti-Semitic remarks she hears from fellow EF worshippers when socialising after Mass. I once put this question to a Francophile acquaintance, who replied that in France the far Right in politics has always been closely linked with the Lefebvrist wing of the Church there. And then there is the case of the schismatic Bishop Williamson and his now notorious views about the Holocaust: clearly, there are too many instances for this to be a random feature.
We have just celebrated Good Friday when, in the Novus Ordo, the general intercessions ask us to “pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God.” The same prayer in my old Roman Missal has the Latin: “Oremus et pro perfidis Judaeis…”, translated as “Let us pray also for the unbelieving Jews…” Is this part of the problem?
When the late John Paul II (of soon-to-be blessed memory) referred to the Jews as “our older brothers”, I warmed to the phrase. I have a private syllogism which runs, “Jesus was a Jew. I follow Jesus. Therefore I am a Jew.”
This is, of course, factual and well as logical nonsense, as I am actually a Celt, descended from a long and noble line of Irish peasants, but you get my drift: how can we Christians, who profess to follow Christ, have any truck with any kind of anti-Semitism?
Pope Benedict concludes on page 187 with the words, “Only when understood in terms of the theology of the Last Supper and the Cross, drawn from the whole of the New Testament, does this verse from Matthew’s Gospel take on its correct meaning.”
Worth pondering, eh?