Saturday, September 3, 2011

Feeling Grateful and Hopeful at My First Bar Mitzvah

This morning my family attended the Bar Mitzvah of a neighborhood boy we have known since he was a baby. I never had attended a Conservative Jewish Shabbat morning service, much less a bar mitvah. It was exquisite, reverent and beautiful. (The sanctuary is pictured above) I wiped tears from my eyes as I considered the overwhelming faith and courage of Jews through the centuries of persecution that enabled this boy to encounter this moment.

I also meditated on the links between my Catholic faith and Judaism as I listened to the prayers of the worshipers. As the Catechism teaches us: When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, "the first to hear the Word of God."  I always have been taught that Judaism is the root of the tree of our faith. And that without that root, our faith would not have flowered. For the most part, this insight has remained an intellectual abstraction to me. But this morning, in the faces and voices of those gathered for worship, I could see and hear that.

Among the readings in this morning's liturgy were was this one from the prophet Isaiah. It reminds me that we are begotten, not made. We do not make ourselves, and we cannot reinvent ourselves. We are not the result of a random pairing of sperm and egg; rather all that we are and all that we become is a result of the Presence among us. When we face the terror of hurricanes or the terror of men, we can stand before the Presence like beggars. And we can have hope.

Listen to me, you who pursue justice, who seek the LORD; Look to the rock from which you were hewn, to the pit from which you were quarried;Look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth; When he was but one I called him, I blessed him and made him many. Yes, the LORD shall comfort Zion and have pity on all her ruins; Her deserts he shall make like Eden, her wasteland like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness shall be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of song.

Be attentive to me, my people; my folk, give ear to me. For law shall go forth from my presence, and my judgment, as the light of the peoples. I will make my justice come speedily; my salvation shall go forth (and my arm shall judge the nations); In me shall the coastlands hope, and my arm they shall await.

Raise your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth below; Though the heavens grow thin like smoke, the earth wears out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies, My salvation shall remain forever and my justice shall never be dismayed.

Hear me, you who know justice, you people who have my teaching at heart: Fear not the reproach of men, be not dismayed at their revilings. They shall be like a garment eaten by moths, like wool consumed by grubs; But my justice shall remain forever and my salvation, for all generations.


  1. Beautiful post!

    We were privileged to attend a Bar Mitzvah about twenty years ago and it had a huge impact on my faith journey. My husband and I both wiped tears throughout the service and noticed men and women throughout the sanctuary doing so. Honestly, I felt the Holy Spirit more strongly in that service than I had in any church to that point. Now, I certainly see the parallels between Catholic liturgy and our Jewish heritage.

  2. Awww Sandy. You gave me goosebumps. Yes, we Catholics worship the same God as Jewish people do and the Holy Spirit was moving through that sanctuary.