In the Declaration Nostra Aetate no. 4, Vatican Council II manifests the doctrine consistently recognized by the Church ever since the time of Saint Paul, that the Jewish People would finally convert to the Lord: “Nevertheless, God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues. Such is the testimony of the Apostle (Rom 11:28-29, cf. Lumen Gentium, 16: AAS 57, 1965, p. 20). In company with the Prophets and the same Apostle, the Church awaits that day, known to God alone, on which all peoples will address the Lord in a single voice and ‘serve him of one accord’ (Zeph 3:9) (cf. Is 66:23 Ps 65:4 Rom 11:11-32).” However, certain recent affirmations may give the impression that the Israelites should remain as they presently are…
Has God ceased to love the Hebrew people? Does He no longer desire their conversion? Will they be saved while trying to follow the Old Law? Have they kept the faith in God? Do the Jewish rites have a salvific efficacy as the Sacraments do? Are there two paths to Salvation — that of the Old and New Covenant? Should the Church learn from the Jews?
The more questions one raises, the more one seems to get entangled. Let us consider the doctrine of the Church, already twenty centuries old, so as to understand this clearly and to truly love the Jews in truth.
God continues to work among the people of the Old Covenant and to bring forth treasures of wisdom which flow from their encounter with his word. For this reason, the Church also is enriched when she receives the values of Judaism. While it is true that certain Christian beliefs are unacceptable to Judaism, and that the Church cannot refrain from proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Messiah, there exists as well a rich complementarity which allows us to read the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures together and to help one another to mine the riches of God’s word. We can also share many ethical convictions and a common concern for justice and the development of peoples. (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 247-249)
Enter in the various parts of our study
I: Is the Old Covenant Still in Effect?
II: The Precepts of the Old Law in Relation to the New Law
III: What Does the Love of God Toward the Jewish People Imply?
IV: What did Saint Paul say in the context of Romans 11:29?
I – Is the Old Covenant still in Force?
When there is a change of priesthood, there is necessarily a change of law as well. […] For it is testified: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” On the one hand, a former commandment is annulled because of its weakness and uselessness, for the Law brought nothing to perfection; on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. (Heb 7:12,15-19)
Now he has obtained so much more excellent a ministry as he is mediator of a better covenant, enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second one. But he finds fault with them and says: Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will conclude a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they did not stand by my covenant and I ignored them, says the Lord. […] When he speaks of a “new” covenant, he declares the first one obsolete. And what has become obsolete and has grown old is close to disappearing. (Heb 8:6-9,13)
Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of them, it can never make perfect those who come to worship by the same sacrifices that they offer continually each year. Otherwise, would not the sacrifices have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, once cleansed, would no longer have had any consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is only a yearly remembrance of sins, for it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins. For this reason, when he came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.’” First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in.” These are offered according to the law. Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.” He takes away the first to establish the second. (Heb 10:1-9)
Who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, was so glorious that the Israelites could not look intently at the face of Moses because of its glory that was going to fade, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit be glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation was glorious, the ministry of righteousness will abound much more in glory. Indeed, what was endowed with glory has come to have no glory in this respect because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was going to fade was glorious, how much more will what endures be glorious. (2Cor 3:6-11)
Let no one, then, pass judgment on you in matters of food and drink or with regard to a festival or new moon or Sabbath. These are shadows of things to come; the reality belongs to Christ. (Col 2:16-17)
And first of all, by the death of our Redeemer, the New Testament took the place of the Old Law which had been abolished; then the Law of Christ together with its mysteries, enactments, institutions, and sacred rites was ratified for the whole world in the blood of Jesus Christ. For, while our Divine Savior was preaching in a restricted area —He was not sent but to the sheep that were lost of the House of Israel— the Law and the Gospel were together in force; but on the gibbet of His death Jesus made void the Law with its decrees fastened the handwriting of the Old Testament to the Cross, establishing the New Testament in His blood shed for the whole human race. “To such an extent, then” says Saint Leo the Great, speaking of the Cross of our Lord, “was there effected a transfer from the Law to the Gospel, from the Synagogue to the Church, from the many sacrifices to one Victim, that, as Our Lord expired, that mystical veil which shut off the innermost part of the temple and its sacred secret was rent violently from top to bottom.” On the Cross then the Old Law died, soon to be buried and to be a bearer of death, in order to give way to the New Testament of which Christ had chosen the Apostles as qualified ministers. (Pius XII. Encyclical Mystici Corpori Christi, June 19, 1846)
It firmly believes, professes, and teaches that the matter pertaining to the law of the Old Testament, of the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, sacred rites, sacrifices, and sacraments, because they were established to signify something in the future, although they were suited to the divine worship at that time, after our Lord’s coming had been signified by them, ceased, and the sacraments of the New Testament began; and that whoever, even after the passion, placed hope in these matters of the law and submitted himself to them as necessary for salvation, as if faith in Christ could not save without them, sinned mortally. Yet it does not deny that after the passion of Christ up to the promulgation of the Gospel they could have been observed until they were believed to be in no way necessary for salvation; but after the promulgation of the Gospel it asserts that they cannot be observed without the loss of eternal salvation. All, therefore, who after that time observe circumcision and the Sabbath and the other requirements of the law, it declares alien to the Christian faith and not in the least fit to participate in eternal salvation, unless someday they recover from these errors. (Denzinger-Hünermann 1348. Council of Florence, Decree on behalf of the Jacobites, February 4, 1442)
The first consideration is that the ceremonies of the Mosaic Law were abrogated by the coming of Christ and that they can no longer be observed without sin after the promulgation of the Gospel. Therefore, the distinction made by the old Law between clean and unclean foods belongs to the ceremonial precepts, whereby it may be justly affirmed that such a distinction no longer exists, and that no discrimination of foods should be permitted. (Benedict XIV. Encyclical Ex Quo Primum, no. 61, March 1, 1756)
II – The Precepts of the Old Law in relation to the New Law
We must therefore distinguish three kinds of precept in the Old Law; viz. “moral” precepts, which are dictated by the natural law; “ceremonial” precepts, which are determinations of the Divine worship; and “judicial” precepts, which are determinations of the justice to be maintained among men. Wherefore the Apostle (Rom 7:12) after saying that the “Law is holy,” adds that “the commandment is just, and holy, and good”: “just,” in respect of the judicial precepts; “holy,” with regard to the ceremonial precepts (since the word “sanctus” – “holy” is applied to that which is consecrated to God); and “good,” i.e. conducive to virtue, as to the moral precepts. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, q. 99, a.4, co.)
The moral precepts, distinct from the ceremonial and judicial precepts, are about things pertaining of their very nature to good morals. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I-II, q. 100, a.1, co.)
The precepts of the Law are so many parts of the precepts of the Decalogue. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I-II, q. 100, a. 3)
The ceremonial precepts are determinations of the moral precepts whereby man is directed to God, just as the judicial precepts are determinations of the moral precepts whereby he is directed to his neighbor. Now man is directed to God by the worship due to Him. Wherefore those precepts are properly called ceremonial, which pertain to the Divine worship. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I-II, q.101, a.1)
On the other hand, they had no power of cleansing from uncleanness of the soul, i.e. from the uncleanness of sin. The reason of this was that at no time could there be expiation from sin, except through Christ, “Who taketh away the sins [Vulgate: ‘sin’] of the world” (John 1:29). […] Consequently they could not cleanse from sin: thus the Apostle says (Hebrews 10:4) that “it is impossible that with the blood of oxen and goats sin should be taken away”; and for this reason he calls them (Gal 4:9) “weak and needy element”: weak indeed, because they cannot take away sin; but this weakness results from their being needy, i.e. from the fact that they do not contain grace within themselves. […] It is therefore evident that under the state of the Old Law the ceremonies had no power of justification. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I-II, q.103, a.2)
Now external worship should be in proportion to the internal worship, which consists in faith, hope and charity. Consequently exterior worship had to be subject to variations according to the variations in the internal worship, in which a threefold state may be distinguished. One state was in respect of faith and hope, both in heavenly goods, and in the means of obtaining them — in both of these considered as things to come. Such was the state of faith and hope in the Old Law. Another state of interior worship is that in which we have faith and hope in heavenly goods as things to come; but in the means of obtaining heavenly goods, as in things present or past. Such is the state of the New Law. The third state is that in which both are possessed as present; wherein nothing is believed in as lacking, nothing hoped for as being yet to come. Such is the state of the Blessed. In this state of the Blessed, then, nothing in regard to worship of God will be figurative; there will be naught but “thanksgiving and voice of praise” (Is 51:3). Hence it is written concerning the city of the Blessed (Apoc 21:22): “I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty is the temple thereof, and the Lamb.” Proportionately, therefore, the ceremonies of the first-mentioned state which foreshadowed the second and third states, had need to cease at the advent of the second state; and other ceremonies had to be introduced which would be in keeping with the state of divine worship for that particular time, wherein heavenly goods are a thing of the future, but the Divine favors whereby we obtain the heavenly boons are a thing of the present.
The mystery of the redemption of the human race was fulfilled in Christ’s Passion: hence Our Lord said then: “It is consummated” (Jn 19:30). Consequently the prescriptions of the Law must have ceased then altogether through their reality being fulfilled. As a sign of this, we read that at the Passion of Christ “the veil of the temple was rent.” (Mt 27:51) (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I-II, q.103, a. 3, co./ad2)
The Apostle says (Gal 5:2): “If you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.” But nothing save mortal sin hinders us from receiving Christ’s fruit. Therefore since Christ’s Passion it is a mortal sin to be circumcised, or to observe the other legal ceremonies.
All ceremonies are professions of faith, in which the interior worship of God consists. Now man can make profession of his inward faith, by deeds as well as by words: and in either profession, if he make a false declaration, he sins mortally. Now, though our faith in Christ is the same as that of the fathers of old; yet, since they came before Christ, whereas we come after Him, the same faith is expressed in different words, by us and by them. For by them was it said: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son,” where the verbs are in the future tense: whereas we express the same by means of verbs in the past tense, and say that she “conceived and bore.” In like manner the ceremonies of the Old Law betokened Christ as having yet to be born and to suffer: whereas our sacraments signify Him as already born and having suffered. Consequently, just as it would be a mortal sin now for anyone, in making a profession of faith, to say that Christ is yet to be born, which the fathers of old said devoutly and truthfully; so too it would be a mortal sin now to observe those ceremonies which the fathers of old fulfilled with devotion and fidelity. Such is the teaching Augustine (Contra Faust. XIX, 16), who says: “It is no longer promised that He shall be born, shall suffer and rise again, truths of which their sacraments were a kind of image: but it is declared that He is already born, has suffered and risen again; of which our sacraments, in which Christians share, are the actual representation.” (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I-II, q.103, a.4, s.c. /co)
Hence there are two conditions attached to the judicial precepts: viz. first, that they refer to man’s relations to other men; secondly, that they derive their binding force not from reason alone, but in virtue of their institution. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I-II, q. 104, a. 1, co)
The judicial precepts did not bind forever, but were annulled by the coming of Christ: yet not in the same way as the ceremonial precepts. For the ceremonial precepts were annulled so far as to be not only “dead,” but also deadly to those who observe them since the coming of Christ, especially since the promulgation of the Gospel. On the other hand, the judicial precepts are dead indeed, because they have no binding force: but they are not deadly. For if a sovereign were to order these judicial precepts to be observed in his kingdom, he would not sin: unless perchance they were observed, or ordered to be observed, as though they derived their binding force through being institutions of the Old Law: for it would be a deadly sin to intend to observe them thus. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I-II, q.104, a.3, co.)
Our Lord said (Mt 5:17): “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill”: and went on to say (Mt 5:18): “One jot or one tittle shall not pass of the Law till all be fulfilled.” Now everything perfect fulfills that which is lacking in the imperfect. And accordingly the New Law fulfills the Old by supplying that which was lacking in the Old Law. […] The end of the Old Law was the justification of men. The Law, however, could not accomplish this: but foreshadowed it by certain ceremonial actions, and promised it in words. And in this respect, the New Law fulfills the Old by justifying men through the power of Christ’s Passion. This is what the Apostle says (Rom 8:3-4): “What the Law could not do …God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh… hath condemned sin in the flesh, that the justification of the Law might be fulfilled in us.” And in this respect, the New Law gives what the Old Law promised, according to 2 Corinthians 1:20: “Whatever are the promises of God, in Him,” i.e. in Christ, “they are ‘Yea’.” Again, in this respect, it also fulfills what the Old Law foreshadowed. Hence it is written (Col 2:17) concerning the ceremonial precepts that they were “a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ”; in other words, the reality is found in Christ. Wherefore the New Law is called the law of reality; whereas the Old Law is called the law of shadow or of figure. Now Christ fulfilled the precepts of the Old Law both in His works and in His doctrine. In His works, because He was willing to be circumcised and to fulfill the other legal observances, which were binding for the time being; according to Gal 4:4: “Made under the Law.” In His doctrine He fulfilled the precepts of the Law in three ways. First, by explaining the true sense of the Law. This is clear in the case of murder and adultery, the prohibition of which the Scribes and Pharisees thought to refer only to the exterior act: wherefore Our Lord fulfilled the Law by showing that the prohibition extended also to the interior acts of sins. Secondly, Our Lord fulfilled the precepts of the Law by prescribing the safest way of complying with the statutes of the Old Law. Thus the Old Law forbade perjury: and this is more safely avoided, by abstaining altogether from swearing, save in cases of urgency. Thirdly, Our Lord fulfilled the precepts of the Law, by adding some counsels of perfection: this is clearly seen in Mt 19:21, where Our Lord said to the man who affirmed that he had kept all the precepts of the Old Law: “One thing is wanting to thee: If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell whatsoever thou hast,” etc. [Saint Thomas combines Mt 19:21 with Mk 10:21.] (Saint Thomas Aquinas. I-II, q. 107, a. 2, s.c. /co.)
Every law ordains human conduct to some end. […] Accordingly then two laws may be distinguished from one another in two ways. First, through being altogether diverse, from the fact that they are ordained to diverse ends. […] We must therefore say that, according to the first way, the New Law is not distinct from the Old Law: because they both have the same end, namely, man’s subjection to God; and there is but one God of the New and of the Old Testament, according to Rom 3:30: “It is one God that justifieth circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.” According to the second way, the New Law is distinct from the Old Law: because the Old Law is like a pedagogue of children, as the Apostle says (Gal 3:24), whereas the New Law is the law of perfection, since it is the law of charity, of which the Apostle says (Col 3:14) that it is “the bond of perfection.” […] All the differences assigned between the Old and New Laws are gathered from their relative perfection and imperfection. For the precepts of every law prescribe acts of virtue. […] Hence the Old Law, which was given to men who were imperfect, that is, who had not yet received spiritual grace, was called the “law of fear,” inasmuch as it induced men to observe its commandments by threatening them with penalties; and is spoken of as containing temporal promises. On the other hand, those who are possessed of virtue, are inclined to do virtuous deeds through love of virtue, not on account of some extrinsic punishment or reward. Hence the New Law which derives its pre-eminence from the spiritual grace instilled into our hearts, is called the “Law of love”: and it is described as containing spiritual and eternal promises, which are objects of the virtues, chiefly of charity. Accordingly such persons are inclined of themselves to those objects, not as to something foreign but as to something of their own. For this reason, too, the Old Law is described as “restraining the hand, not the will”; since when a man refrains from some sins through fear of being punished, his will does not shrink simply from sin, as does the will of a man who refrains from sin through love of righteousness: and hence the New Law, which is the Law of love, is said to restrain the will. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I-II, q. 107, a. 1, co./ad 2)
[The Jews] ask us: ‘What do the readings of the Law and the Prophets serve you, if you do not wish to observe their precepts?’ For we do not circumcise the flesh, and we consume the meat that the Law calls impure; we do not keep the Sabbath, the new moon or the feast days; we do not sacrifice animal victims to God, nor do we celebrate the Passover as they with the lamb and unleavened bread. Inclusively, the Apostle calls some other preceding sacraments, shadows of what was to come (Col 2:17), for they signified that which was to be revealed, that which was disclosed to us; such that, with the shadows removed, we benefit from their uncovered light. It would take much time to dispute each point separately: just as we are circumcised by uncovering the old man not by the cutting of flesh, […] so also, our Passover is Christ, and our unleavened bread is the sincerity of truth, which does not contain the leaven of malice (1Col 5: 7-8), and if there are other matters that need not be fulfilled now, contained within the former signs, they are fulfilled in He whose kingdom will not end. It is certainly fitting that all of the causes be fulfilled in He who did not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them. (Mt 5:17) In this way, Christ did not annul the former signs by opposing them; rather, he changed them by bringing them to their plenitude, in such a way that there is a clear distinction between those who announced that Christ came, and those who foretold his coming. (Saint Augustine. Adversus Iudaeos, no.3-4)
III – What Does the Love of God Toward the Jewish People Imply?
[When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them,] ‘You who are Israelites, hear these words. Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it. […] God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you (both) see and hear. […] Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified’. Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?” Peter (said) to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:14,22-24,32,36-39)
When Peter saw this, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why are you amazed at this, (…) The God of Abraham, (the God) of Isaac, and (the God) of Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Jesus whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence, when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. […] Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Messiah already appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old. For Moses said: ‘A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you. Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be cut off from the people.’ Moreover, all the prophets who spoke, from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days. You are the children of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he said to Abraham, In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed. For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.” (Acts 3:12-13,19-26)
And he replied, “My brothers and fathers, listen. […] It was this Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you, from among your own kinsfolk, a prophet like me.’ It was he who, in the assembly in the desert, was with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai and with our ancestors, and he received living utterances to hand on to us. “Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods’ […] You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.” (Acts 7:2,37-41,51-53)
Since we have such hope, we act very boldly and not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites could not look intently at the cessation of what was fading. Rather, their thoughts were rendered dull, for to this present day the same veil remains unlifted when they read the old covenant, because through Christ it is taken away. To this day, in fact, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts, but whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2Cor 3:11-16)
Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father’s one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one. Saint John of the Cross, among others, commented strikingly on Hebrews 1:1-2: ‘In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word – and he has no more to say… because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty.’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 65)
It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41), unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock. (Denzinger-Hünermann 1351. Council of Florence. Bull Cantata Domino, February 4, 1442)
Finally, if you insist, oh Jews, on distorting the meaning of prophetic words according to your own view, thus resisting the Son of God against your salvation; […] if you wish to understand things in this way, what will you say and how will you interpret the other Prophet (Mal 1:10-11) that cuts through such words, crying out with perfect clarity: ‘I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from you hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.’ With so much clear evidence with what right then, do you object? […] Certainly here you cannot deny that not only does He not accept a sacrifice from your hands, but also that you do not offer a sacrifice with your hands. For there exists only one place established by the law of the Lord, where he commanded that the sacrifices be offered by your hands, outside of which place he firmly prohibited it. Since such places were lost through by fault, you do not dare to offer in other places the sacrifices that were only licit to offer there. […] Then, do not think that just because you are not offering a sacrifice to Him, or due to the fact that he does not receive it from your hands, that sacrifices are no longer offered to God. […] Open your eyes at last and see that, from the rising of the sun to its setting, the sacrifice of the Christians is offered not only in one place, as you had established, but in all places; and not to any god, but to the One who had foresaid this, the God of Israel. For which he also said in another place to his Church: ‘And the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.’(Isa 54: 5) (Saint Augustine. Adversus Iudaeos, no.12-13)
Therefore, the Prophet calls you to the light of the Lord when he said: ‘O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.’ ‘You, o house of Jacob,’ who He has called and chosen; not ‘You,’ who He has rejected: ‘For you have rejected your people, the house of Jacob’ (Isa 2: 5-6). Whosoever wishes to come from the house of Jacob will belong to house that is called, and set free from the one abandoned. In effect, the light of the Lord in which the people walk is that light of which the same Prophet said: ‘I will give you as a light for the nations that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isa 49: 6) To whom does he say this if not Christ? How has it been fulfilled if not in Christ? […] Then ‘Draw near to him and be radiant’ (Ps 34:5) What does ‘Draw near to Him’ mean other than: ‘Believe’? Why then are you going elsewhere to draw near to him, when he is the rock that the prophet Daniel said would increase and become such a great mountain so as to fill the earth? (Dan 2:35) In the same way, those who say: ‘Come, let us climb the mountain of the Lord,’ are not trying to move out and reach any other place. Where they are, is where they climb; for a sacrifice is offered according to Melchizedek in all places. Likewise, another prophet also said: ‘The Lord […] will famish all the gods of the earth and to him shall bow down, each in its place, all the lands of the nations.’(Zeph 2:11) When, therefore, one says: ‘Draw near to him,’ one doesn’t say: prepare ships or beasts that they may carry your victims, or, walk from the farthest places unto the place where God accepts the sacrifices of your devotion. Rather it is said: Draw near to Him whom you have heard preached, draw near to him who is glorified before your eyes. You shall not tire as you walk, for you shall draw near to him from wherever you believe. (Saint Augustine. Adversus Iudaeos, no. 14)
Dearest ones, independently of whether the Jews hear this with pleasure or with indignation; we, however, and to the extent that we may, must preach with love toward them. In no way should we proudly boast against the separated branches, rather, we must consider the grace of he who, with such mercy, is the root that supports us, (Rom 11:17-18); for it is not by being haughty, but by associating with the lowly that we speak, without insulting presumption, but rather with celebration and trembling (cf. Ps 2:11): ‘Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord’ (Is 2:5). For, ‘his name is great among the nations’(Mal 1:11). If they heard and listen, they will be among those to whom it was said: ‘Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed’ (Ps 34: 5). If they hear and do not obey, if seeing, they becomes envious, they will be included among those of whom it was said: ‘The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away’ (Ps 112: 10). ‘But I,’ says the Church to Christ, ‘as a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever’(Ps 52: 8). (Saint Augustine. Adversus Iudaeos, n. 12-13)
“For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Rom 11:27). Not when they are circumcised, not when they sacrifice, not when they do the other deeds of the Law, but when they attain to the forgiveness of sins. If then this hath been promised, but has never yet happened in their case, nor have they ever enjoyed the remission of sins by baptism, certainly it will come to pass. Hence he proceeds, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom 11:29). (Saint John Chrysostom, Homily XIX, Letter to the Romans, no. 6)
Nevertheless God hath not even now cut short the calling of you, but He waiteth for all the Gentiles that are to believe to come in, and then they also shall come. Then he makes another concession in their favor, by saying, “As regards divine election, they are beloved for the sake of their fathers.” And what does this mean. Insomuch as they are enemies, punishment is theirs: but insomuch as they are beloved, the virtue of their ancestors is useless to them, unless they believe. (Saint John Chrysostom, Homily XIX Letter to the Romans, n. 7)
The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel”, for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus. Saint Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old. Saint Paul echoes him: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? The ‘full inclusion’ of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of ‘the full number of the Gentiles’, will enable the People of God to achieve “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”, in which “God may be all in all”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 674)
One should not persecute the Jews, or put them to death, nor even drive them away. Ask those familiar with the Holy Scriptures, what the Psalms prophesize about the Jews, and what the Church says: ‘Slay them not, lest my people forget.’ Indeed, the Jews are a living memorial for us of the Passion of Our Lord. For this motive, they now live scattered throughout the universe; and weeping the just punishment of so great a crime, wherever they be, they bear witness to our redemption. […] However, ‘they shall return at evening, and in His time, He will look upon them with benevolence’ And, finally, when the plenitude of the nations is reunited, then as the Apostle says: ‘Israel shall be saved’ (Rom 11, 26). Till then, he who dies ‘remains in death.’ (Saint Bernard. Letter 363, no. 6 – Obras Completas de San Bernardo, BAC – vol. VII, p. 1047)
Does the Church not progress more steadily by convincing the Jews of their errors and converting them to the faith, than if the latter were exterminated suddenly by a general massacre? Do you think the universal prayer of the Church ‘from the rising of the sun to its setting’ for the perfidious Jews – so that the Lord God tear the veil from their hearts and have them go from their darkness to the light of truth – was randomly established? If one believed that the incredulous could not believe, it would be ‘useless and ridiculous to pray for them.’ But with the eyes of mercy, consider that the Lord is compassionate toward them and repays their wickedness with goodness, and their hatred with love. What then would become the words of the Psalmist: take care ‘with killing them.’ And, elsewhere: ‘When all nations will be entered into the fold, it will be the turn of Israel to be saved.’ Or, another: ‘The Lord will rebuild Jerusalem and gather together the dispersed of Israel’? By chance do you wish to claim that the prophets were liars, and annul all of the treasures of the love and mercy of Jesus Christ? Your ‘doctrine is not yours’, but rather, that ‘of your father’, who ‘sent you’. But I believe you to be satisfied in following your master. ‘He was an assassin since the beginning,’ a liar and the father of lies. What a monstrous belief! What infernal wisdom in opposition to the words of the prophets, in contradiction with the doctrine of the apostles and hostile to mercy and grace! What a shameful heresy! (Saint Bernard – Letter, 365, no. 2)
Thus from the fact that the Jews observe their rites, which, of old, foreshadowed the truth of the faith which we hold, there follows this good – that our very enemies bear witness to our faith, and that our faith is represented in a figure, so to speak. (Saint Thomas Aquinas, II-II, q. 10 a. 11, co)
IV– What did Saint Paul say in the context of Romans 11:29?
(We recommend that all of chapters 9-11 of the Letter to the Romans be read – it is impossible to include everything here)
What then shall we say? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have achieved it, that is, righteousness that comes from faith; but that Israel, who pursued the law of righteousness, did not attain to that law? Why not? Because they did it not by faith, but as if it could be done by works. They stumbled over the stone that causes stumbling, as it is written: “Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion that will make people stumble and a rock that will make them fall, and whoever believes in him shall not be put to shame.” (Rom 9:30-33)
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God on their behalf is for salvation. I testify with regard to them that they have zeal for God, but it is not discerning. For, in their unawareness of the righteousness that comes from God and their attempt to establish their own (righteousness), they did not submit to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for the justification of everyone who has faith. (Rom 10:1-4)
I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers, so that you will not become wise (in) your own estimation: a hardening has come upon Israel in part, until the full number of the Gentiles comes in, and thus all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come out of Zion, he will turn away godlessness from Jacob; and this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” In respect to the gospel, they are enemies on your account; but in respect to election, they are beloved because of the patriarchs. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now disobeyed in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may (now) receive mercy. For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given him anything that he may be repaid?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom 11:25-36)
Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans: Saint Thomas Aquinas
First, with respect to the fall of particular Jews, when he says: a hardening has come upon Israel, not universally but upon a part: “Blind the heart of this people” (Is 6:10). Secondly, he predicts the end of this blindness, saying: until the full number of the Gentiles come in to the faith, i.e., not only some Gentile nations as were then converted; but either in all or the greater part the Church would be establishes: “The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness” (Ps 23:1) (…) It should be noted that the word, until, can signify the cause of the blindness of the Jews. For God permitted them to be blinded, in order that the full number of the Gentiles come in. It can also designate the termination, i.e., that the blindness of the Jews will last up to the time when the full number of the Gentiles will come to the faith. With this agrees his next statement, namely, and then, i.e., when the full number of the Gentiles has come in, all Israel will be saved, not some, as now, but universally all: “I will save them by the Lord their God” (Hos 1:7); “He will again have compassion upon us” (Mic 7:19). (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Ch. 11, lectio 4)
As regards the gospel, which they resist, they are enemies for your sake, i.e., it has turned out to your benefit. Hence, it says in Lk (19:27): “As for those enemies of mind, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me”; and in Jn (15:24): “But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.” Or as regards the gospel means their enmity has helped the gospel, which has been spread everywhere by reason of such enmity: “In the word of truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing” (Col 1:5). (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Ch. 11, lectio 4)
But they are beloved by God for the sake of their forefathers as regards election, because He chose their descendants on account of their forefathers’ grace: “The Lord loved your fathers and chose their descendants after them” (Dt 10:15). This does not means that the merits established by the fathers were the cause of the eternal election of the descendants, but that God from all eternity chose the fathers and the sons in such a way that the children would obtain salvation on account of the fathers; not as though the merits of the fathers were sufficient for the salvation of the sons, but through an outpouring of divine grace and mercy, the sons would be saved on account of the promises made to the fathers. […]Then when he says, For the gifts, he excludes an objection. For someone might claim that even though the Jews were formerly beloved on account of their forefathers, nevertheless the hostility they exert against the gospel prevents them from being saved in the future. But the Apostle asserts that this is false, saying: The gifts and call o God are irrevocable, i.e., without repentance. As if to say: That God gives something to certain ones or call certain ones is without repentance, because God does not change His mind: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind” (Ps 110:4). However, this seems false, for the Lord says: “It repenteth me that I made man”. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Ch. 11, lectio 4)
God wishes all men to be saved by His mercy, in order that they be humbled by this fact and ascribe their salvation not to themselves but to God: “Destruction is thy own, O Israel: they help is only in me” (Hos 13:9); “In order that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be made subject to God” (Rom 3:19). (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Ch. 11, lectio 4)