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DEAR FATHER | Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets

If you follow Jesus, then why aren’t you Jewish like Him?

A question posed by a Washington University student at a Shabbat dinner left me speechless. Students from the Catholic Student Center and I were invited to learn more about our Jewish neighbors’ faith; Jewish students were able to hear more about Lent and ask us questions, too.

This student asked, “If you follow Jesus, then why aren’t you Jewish like Him?”

What struck me is that no one has ever asked me why I follow Jesus. It also surprised me because the student had no agenda or critique, just genuine interest.

Here’s how I responded:

First, with gratitude to our hosts, I shared how Christians view Judaism as our ancestral faith. The prayers we sang that evening were primarily from the Psalms; I was particularly moved by Psalm 95, prayed each day in the Liturgy of the Hours: “For we are His people and He is our God, the flock He shepherds.” We share the same tradition and believe the Lord continues to shepherd us all.

Then I explained how we believe Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Jesus proclaims at the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). The Jewish faith, secured by the law given by Adonai to Moses in the desert, is something held dear by God’s chosen people. But as God Himself takes on flesh, Jesus fulfills the prophecies, brings new meaning — fulfillment — to the story of Israel:

• Jesus is the New Covenant, the King, the long-awaited Messiah.

• Jesus is the “Bread came down from heaven” (John 6:50).

• Jesus is the one who parts the waters (baptism) to lead from captivity to the Promised Land.

• Jesus is the sacrifice which conquers death (Revelation 12:11).

• Jesus is the temple: destroyed and restored in three days, all for our sake, to save us from sin (John 2:21).

I didn’t share all of these or in great detail, but I did explain that following Jesus is the continuation of the Jewish faith. I follow Jesus and obey His Church because I believe He came to save us from sin and death. He nourishes us and sustains us with His very life, here today. Jesus is my Savior, my dear friend.

There are some who bristle at the Church’s assertion of having the fullness of the faith. It’s understandable this could cause division. But if you sincerely believe something to be true, you follow it with your whole being. To say that all faiths are the same discounts what Jesus did and is doing to redeem us through the Church. Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). If we have been given the faith to believe in Him, we should do so with our whole heart (Deuteronomy 6:5).

We can have different viewpoints on faith while remaining civil. St. Paul VI exhorts us to do so with “mutual understanding and respect” (“Nostrae Aetate,” 5). That’s what made our evening at Hillel so meaningful and enjoyable to me.

Father Brian Fallon is the chaplain to the Catholic Student Center at Washington University and the director of vocations for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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