A Jewish Conspiracy
When the Jews saw the crowds,
they were filled with jealousy
and with violent abuse
contradicted what Paul said.
Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly....
The Jews, however, incited
the women of prominence who were worshipers
and the leading men of the city,
stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas,
and expelled them from their territory.
It definitely sounds like a Jewish conspiracy, but when you look at it closely, it really seems to have been just a localized instance of resentful rivalry.
Actually, it pales in comparison to a far larger and more powerful conspiracy initiated by Jews that stretches around the world to this very day.
The Jewish ringleaders of this grander conspiracy are well known: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Peter and Paul, and all the usual suspects.
To be sure, there were leaders of the Jewish people who for one reason or another opposed Christ and his followers – even to the point of violence and death - and there are many Jews today whose narrow concept of Jewish identity foolishly and tragically excludes faith in Jesus Christ, yet none of this takes away from the key role of Jewish people in God's plan of salvation - a role that is not yet complete.
St. Paul himself, despite the abuse he has suffered at the hands of a few individuals, cherishes his fellow Jews more than his own life and celebrates their role in God's salvation.
I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie;
my conscience joins with the holy Spirit
in bearing me witness
that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart.
For I could wish
that I myself were accursed and separated from Christ
for the sake of my brothers, my kin according to the flesh.
They are Israelites;
theirs the adoption, the glory,
the covenants, the giving of the law,
the worship, and the promises;
theirs the patriarchs,
and from them, according to the flesh,
is the Messiah.
St. Paul is not angry at his fellow Jews for rejecting him and Christ (as some do in today's reading): he is heartbroken, and yet he sees even in this rejection how God's mercy may be at work.
I ask, then, has God rejected his people?
Of course not!
For I too am an Israelite,
a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
Hence I ask, did they stumble so as to fall?
Of course not!
But through their transgression
salvation has come to the Gentiles....
Moreover, Paul is filled with hope for the future of his fellow Jews.
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.
As I have said before, we are all sinners. We are all in need of what God offers in his saving plan: salvation through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We also need to help each other towards a fuller understanding of God's plan and a more perfect living out of that plan in our lives. Neither Anti-Semitism nor any other kind of resentment can have any part in that.
Rather we must all persevere - you and I - in the greatest of Jewish conspiracies: the ministry of mercy in Jesus Christ the Lord.