Where the people of St. Scholastica Parish in Aspinwall, PA meet for conversation about our parish life.
Why the name?
"Holy Conversation" does sound like an exceptionally pious name, even for a parish blog. And we can't guarantee that everything here will meet the high standard the name implies. But the phrase comes from the story of our patron saint, and we think it fits. Here's why.
St. Scholastica was a sixth-century abbess who, according to the Dialogues of Pope Gregory I, used to meet once a year with her brother, St. Benedict. On the last occasion they were together, they spent their time "satisfying each other's hunger for holy conversation about the spiritual life."
We hope that this blog can become a place where the members of our parish can find a taste of the companionship and conversation that Scholastica and Benedict enjoyed so much. Welcome!
The following little essay, written in 2005, is relevant in 2014 as the three-year cycle of Gospel readings comes round again to the Gospel according to Matthew for the Palm Sunday Passion account.
On Palm Sunday and Good
Friday this year, we hear the Passion accounts of Matthew and John.As it happens, these two Gospels contain
passages that have caused a great deal of trouble in relations between
Christians and Jews.All four Gospels
make it clear that the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem were involved in Jesus’
condemnation, along with the Roman government that carried out the execution.Only Matthew, however, reports that “the
whole people” in Pilate’s courtyard exclaimed:“His blood be on us and on our children” (Mt 27:25).John’s Gospel, for its part, sometimes
refers to Jesus’ enemies as “the Jews” (see Jn 18: 31, 36; 19: 7, 12, 20, 38),
despite the fact that Jesus and all his followers were Jews as well.Why do these Gospels speak in this way?
To answer, we must begin by recalling the
process by which the Gospels were written.It can be imagined as occurring in three stages.The first stage is the ministry of Jesus—his
words and actions, witnessed by those around him.In the second stage,which lasted for a generation or more after
Jesus’ death and resurrection, his words and deeds were passed along by
believers mainly by word of mouth.As
the process unfolded, the preoccupations of a particular community would shape
what they remembered about Jesus, and how they presented his words and deeds.Finally, in a third stage, the Gospels were
composed by the evangelists, drawing on the traditions passed on to them.
It is likely that the Gospels of Matthew and
John show such hostility toward the Jewish leaders and people because the
communities that produced them were involved in disputes with the Jewish
communities of their own day.Reconstructing the histories of these groups involves a great deal of
educated guesswork.Still, the
communities that produced these two Gospels seem to have been formed of Jews at
first, Jews who believed that Jesus was sent from God.Over time, their belief that God had exalted
Jesus and their openness to Gentiles who shared that belief produced disputes
with other Jews, and the disputes became heated.The bitterness of these conflicts, occurring
many years after Jesus’ death, led the two evangelists to speak in generalized
ways of the Jews as enemies of Jesus and his followers.The situation of the later community was
written back into the Passion accounts.
In later years, as Christianity became a
separate religion from Judaism, and the dominant religion in Europe, these
Gospel passages were used to justify condemnation of Judaism and harsh
persecution of the Jews.Christian
hostility toward Judaism has abated significantly in recent times, symbolized
by Pope John Paul II’s trip to Israel in the Jubilee year of 2000, when, in a
traditional Jewish practice of prayer, he left a note in the Wailing Wall.The note expressed regret for Christian
mistreatment of Jews over the centuries.
What, then, can we learn from looking at the
Passion accounts in this way?We can be
reminded of how deep anti-Judaism runs in our tradition, and take special care
to pass on the faith to our children in ways that are free from that
stain.In addition, we can learn a great
deal about how to interpret the Bible responsibly.As Fr. Raymond Brown, the late biblical
scholar, put it:“Christian believers
must wrestle with the limitations imposed on the Scriptures by the
circumstances in which they were written.They must be brought to see that some attitudes found in the Scriptures,
however explicable in the times in which they originated, may be wrong
attitudes if repeated today”(A Crucified Christ in Holy Week, p. 16).
The Scriptures are the word of God, but they
are given to us in human words.As the
bishops of the Second Vatican Council wrote, “the words of God, expressed in human
language, are in every way like human speech, just as the Word of the eternal
Father, when he took on himself the weak flesh of human beings, became like
them” (Dei Verbum, 13).When we, acting within the Church community
and using its wisdom, seek the divine message that comes to us in the
Scriptures, we must keep in mind that God has chosen to convey that message
through inspired but limited human beings.