The number of connections that exist between Judaism and Catholicism surprises nearly everyone who takes the time to explore- or at least to wonder a bit- if there is significant overlap between these faith communities. Spoiler Alert: We have much more in common than most people think.

We are celebrating Pentecost which, of course, is when the Holy Trinity is fully revealed to the world beginning with the Church. It is the time when the Holy Spirit, who we are told delights in human creation, becomes more real for us and the fledgling Church begins to understand the ways in which God offers us liberation from sin. Pentecost means 50 days and falls on the 49th day after Easter Sunday (also known as The Passover of Jesus).

Passover in Judaism commemorates the Hebrews’ liberation from Egypt which led to their becoming God’s chosen people. The Jewish Festival known as Shavuot occurs 49 days after the second day of Passover. It commemorates God’s benevolence, demonstrated in the harvest of wheat, in the Land given forever to the Israelites by God. It is a reminder of the 10 Commandments given to Moses that provide direction, good order, and charity. It also recalls the time God gave the Torah to His People, which are the first 5 books of both the Jewish and Christian Bible.

Pentecost gives us the hallmark of the freedom God promises, as Shavuot shows the same for the Jews. There are many, many more parallels between Christianity and Judaism, which makes sense because Christianity came out of Judaism. But one thing that is a shame to overlook is that freedom is a very big deal to God. That theme reverberates throughout the Bible and all of history. So, we have these days following the Great Passover when God, who delights in humanity, has shown us the way to freedom, and distinct ways for us to celebrate this freedom as well. Or not.

God provides us- all of humanity- the means to live freely. But God does not force us to live freely. We are always allowed to demand and to live the way we want. The consequence of choosing to live our own way is, of course, confinement and loss of freedom. If we persist in living without appropriate regard for God and His way, we ultimately lose our place in heaven. Contrary to what too many people think, attaining heaven is not a sure thing. We need to live charitably and wholly given over to the Holy Spirit of God in order to know God more intimately and without reservation.

Israel is, and many Jews elsewhere are, under intense pressure these days. Please pray for them. Please pray for people of ill intent that they will come to understand that charity and forgiveness always win the day. Always. And it might be a good idea to thank God for His offer of freedom and take Him up on it.

~ Deacon Greg Osgood