The word of God is "living and efficient and keener than any two-edged sword…" (Hebrews 4:12). God speaks to us through the Prophet Isaiah: "So shall My word be, which shall go forth from My mouth. It shall not return to Me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it" (Isias 55:11).
According to Jesus Christ, the "Word made flesh," the Holy Scriptures are fulfilled in Him: "Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17). His word is truth. The Gospel for today (Matthew 5:20-24) opens with Jesus warning His disciples; "Unless your justice exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 5:20). We must conclude that the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' time, except for those who believed in Him, would be unable to enter Heaven. They would not be saved because they rejected Him and denied His Divine authority.
In the light of this, we take note of recent words of Benedict XVI to a general audience on June 28, 2006 (Zenit.org), in which he speaks of the settlement of a dispute in the early Church between Christians of Jewish origin and those of pagan origin:
"On the one hand, the unbreakable relationship is recognized that links Christianity to the Jewish religion as its perennially living and valid matrix; on the other, Christians of pagan origin are allowed to preserve their own sociological identity, which they would have lost if they had been constrained to observe the so-called Mosaic ceremonial precepts: These now were no longer to be considered obligatory for converted pagans. In essence, a reciprocal praxis of esteem and respect was being initiated, which, notwithstanding subsequent unfortunate misunderstandings, sought by its nature to safeguard all that was characteristic of the two sides."
Can a religion that so adamantly rejects Jesus Christ and condemns Him as an apostate be at the same time the "perennially living and valid matrix" of Christianity? Impossible! Jesus Christ Himself is the one, true and perennially living Matrix out of Whom all true religion flows. A religion which has cut itself off from Him is like a branch cut off from the vine; it has no source of life; it withers and dies. But Jesus made this promise to the woman at the well in Samaria, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again. He, however, who drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up unto life everlasting" (John 4:13,14).
Perennially living? The Jewish religion was already dead when Jesus Christ offered Himself to the Father, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, with the words: "For this is My Body; For this is the Chalice of My Blood of the new and eternal Covenant, the Mystery of faith, which shall be shed for you and for many unto the forgiveness of sins" (Consecration of the Traditional Latin Mass).
The demise of the Jewish religion occurred because it rejected its Covenant with God, which it effectively did when it rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah. This incurred for the apostate Jews the Covenant curses enumerated in the Book of Leviticus (Leviticus 26:14-39). The terrible consequences of breaking the Covenant are spelled out in Chapter 26, where a series of woes or curses are pronounced by God against the unfaithful: "But if you do not heed me and do not keep all these commandments, if you reject my precepts and spurn my decrees…I…will punish you with terrible woes…" (Leviticus 26:14-16). The punishments would become seven times more intense each time the Covenant was broken again: "If then you become defiant in your unwillingness to obey Me, I will multiply My blows another sevenfold, as your sins deserve" (Leviticus 26:21).
God must be true to His word. Although Jesus wept over Jerusalem and its fate, He would invoke the Covenant curses against the Pharisees with extreme severity, beginning each time with the words, "Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" (Matthew 23:13-36). (There are eight woes recorded in St. Matthew's Gospel, but Scripture scholars believe that one of them was not part of the original text). "Amen I say to you," Jesus prophesied, "all these things will come upon this generation" (Matthew 23:36). In fact, within forty years the words of Jesus were fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., amid unimaginable horrors.
Do we have any other evidence that the destruction of Jerusalem was the result of the Covenant curses? Well, we have the testimony of St. John the Apostle, who wrote the Book of the Apocalypse. Considered very difficult to interpret, the Apocalypse is generally understood to be prophetic of the events of the "end times," which may even now be upon us. But even if this is true, some Scripture scholars say it had an earlier fulfillment even before the death of the last Apostle, St. John, who authored the book. The Apocalypse tells the story of the punishment of the unfaithful spouse (the earthly Jerusalem) and the purification of the faithful spouse (the heavenly Jerusalem, the Church) to be the Bride of Christ. The punishment is carried out in exact fulfillment of the Covenant curses found in the Book of Leviticus.
As the Covenant curses unfold, seven seals are broken (Apocalypse 6;7), seven trumpets are sounded (Apocalypse 8;9;10), and seven bowls of wrath are poured out (Apocalypse 16), with horrendous disasters and the utter destruction of the great city "Babylon." "Babylon" is sometimes thought to represent pagan Rome, but it seems unlikely that these were punishments against Rome, since the Romans had no covenant with God and the Covenant curses would not apply to them. The Apocalypse itself, however, identifies the city for us as "the great city, which is called mystically Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord also was crucified" (Apocalypse 11:8), which is clearly Jerusalem. In the Apocalypse, then, we see depicted the falling of the Covenant curses upon unfaithful Jerusalem, so as to leave in it not "one stone upon another" (Luke 19:44).
With all good will towards the Jews, and hope for their eternal salvation, they got sidetracked when they followed their religious leaders into apostasy. Is the same thing happening today to the world's Catholics? Will the Covenant curses now descend upon them? The horror of it, for us, is that the Vatican is now declaring, through its chief representative, that the Catholic Church is linked to the Jewish religion as its "perennially living and valid matrix." Don't believe it! If modern Judaism is the matrix of Vatican Catholicism, then Vatican Catholicism is as dead as its source. But the true Catholic religion finds its source in Jesus Christ, the Source of all grace and life, Who declared: "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last, and he who lives; I was dead, and behold, I am living forevermore…" (Apocalypse 1:17,18).