Hence I ask, did they [the Israelites] stumble so as to fall? Of course not! But through their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is enrichment for the world, and if their diminished number is enrichment for the Gentiles, how much more their full number. (Romans 11:11-12)
Paul explains that it was part of God’s plan that Jesus should be rejected by many of the Jews, in order that the apostles might spread the gospel message to the Gentiles that they might be saved. While Paul earlier expressed his deep sorrow that so many of his Jewish brothers and sisters had rejected Jesus, in chapter 11 he expresses his profound hope in God’s providence with regards to the Jewish people:
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. (Romans 11:25-29)
A covenant is an eternal promise between God and His people. The Bible is a continual story of God calling humanity into a covenant relationship with Him, men and women breaking their promises to God, and God in His mercy continually calling His people back for healing, redemption and renewal. In the fullness of time Jesus establishes the new covenant, written in His blood, calling us to love one another as He loves us, to proclaim the gospel to all nations, and to observe all that He has commanded. He conquered sin and death for us, and opened the gates of Heaven, so that we might have eternal life with Him.
As Paul says, none of this negates the covenant God established with His chosen people, Israel. When and how God will save the Jewish people is not revealed in Sacred Scripture. As Jesus told the Apostles before His Ascension, “It is not for you to know the times and seasons the Father has established by His own authority.” (Acts 1:6) The salvation of Israel is, however, a powerful reminder of the extraordinary mercy and patience of God with every one of us.
Perhaps there are great saints who reach an age of maturity and yet go their whole lives without committing a mortal sin. But I’m guessing most people fall out of God’s grace at some time in their lives and need God’s mercy and forgiveness. How many people spend months, days or years in the wilderness? Some people leave the Church, and some people go to mass, but merely out of routine, living for themselves the rest of the week. How many Catholics go years without confession? Yet God waits patiently for us. God does not strike us down and cast us out. God continues to give us the graces we need until finally, we return to Him with sincere repentance. And we are healed.
Israel’s story is my story. I forgot God but He never forgot me. In the fullness of time, He drew me back to Him. I will sing His praises forever!
God is leading us down a road, and while we don’t know all the details of the journey, we know the road leads to Heaven. St. Paul concludes his discussion of the salvation of the Jews by writing:
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. (Romans 11:33-36)
The Catechism discusses Romans 11 in paragraph 674: “The ‘full inclusion’ of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of the ‘full number of 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.’
Image: Romans 11:33 (downloaded from dailyverses.net).