Sunday, February 15, 2004

Who Killed Jesus?

I had a conversation the other day with a good friend, a Jewish woman, who I've blogged about on these pages before. She is very upset and fears that the release of Mel Gibson's movie will unlease an uprise of anti-semitism. We talked about this for some time and at the time while trying ally her fears--I really felt that she was over reacting. Until, of course, I recall her personal history.

She grew up a young Jewish girl in very Catholic Poland in the 1930's and 40's. Surrounded by Christians, she witnessed first hand the complicity of many who willingly handed over their Jewish neighbors to the nazis. She and her family survived through the help of other Catholics--who gave them a "Catholic" cover; fake baptism certificates, allowed them into their churches and ultimately saved their lives. But one only has to put themselves in the place of a twelve year old who knows they are being hunted down sitting in a church and looking up at the stations of the cross and seeing the passion of Christ in an entirely different light.

So then armed with some compassion, I revisit this issue again. It bothers me that Mel Gibson cut the scene with Caiphas yelling, "His blood be upon and our children." It after all is a line from the Gospels. I would have rather he had kept the scene in and interwoven a scene from the Exodus where Moses sprinkles the blood that has been sacrificed to ratify the covenant upon the heads of the people. Then, the scene becomes one of the priests unwittingly invoking salvation upon the Jewish people, not giving bigots and ignorant people a blank check to disregard the entire Gospel message of love and to use it as a reason to hate anyone.

After all, the same Gospel that some used to fuel hatred for the Jewish people--of which Jesus and his Blessed Mother were members of that same chosen race, enabled some Catholics in Poland to shield and protect Jews during the shoah. Obviously, it is a matter of clearly understanding the Gospel and its demands for a radical response of love.

So who killed Jesus, might better be asked by who continues to kill Jesus? This puts the ball in our court--"when I was hungry, when I was naked, when I was in prison, when I was a stranger," etc. (Matthew 25) could well be us!

The Gospels portray the religious and world leaders turning against the innocent wasn't something that was specifially "Roman" or Jewish" but rather something that was a "world' event and when it comes to reliving the Passion of the Christ it is always us, not any race of people, who stand in the crowd screaming "crucify him" and we can only hope that his redemptive blood will be upon us and our children.