Is God done with the Jewish people? It has always struck me as odd to suppose that with the rejection of Jesus by most Jews God altogether ceased his work among them. I have never understood how that could seem a logical implication of the facts.
That said, it has also seemed absurd to suppose that Jesus could be the Messiah, indeed that he is God incarnate and savior of the world, but somehow these truths did not hold true for Jews. Messiah? Isn't he the Jewish Messiah? We have nothing in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament to suppose the Messiah wasn't intended for the Jewish people, whatever other purpose he was thought to have. As God incarnate isn't Jesus God of all people, Jews as well as Gentiles? How could he be otherwise? Isn't that part of the point of the Incarnation? When Jesus said to make disciples of all nations, didn't he intend that his disciples would make disciples of the Jews scattered among all nations, not simply the Gentiles? Isn't that part of what Pentecost is about, bringing the dispersed Jewish people into the one family of God through Jesus the Messiah? Isn't that what Paul and the other apostles set about doing? How could Christians today presume to do otherwise?
Of course the history of Christian antisemitism cannot be overlooked when it comes to discussing such matters. I understand well, based on personal experience, the difficulty in traditional Jews and Christians talking about Jesus and Christianity's claims regarding him. And certainly not every encounter between Jews and Christians needs to bring up points of disagreement. Indeed, Christians should seek to avoid giving unnecessary offense to their Jewish brethren.
Thus, to go from the general to the particular, Pope John XXIII's change in the Good Friday Prayers for the Jewish people in the 1962 Missal made sense, if for no other reason than that the original formulation was easily misunderstood and reflected an inapt generalization regarding the Jewish people. Rightly, the change was seen as helping to foster better relations between Catholics and Jews.
Even so, whatever Catholics pray for regarding the Jewish people, it should not contradict the basic Christian message that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. Indeed, if we are going to pray for the Jewish people in connection with Jesus' passion, death and resurrection, as we do in the Good Friday Prayers, surely it would be appropriate to pray for their general recognition of Jesus as the Messiah--recognition of Jesus' messianic identity being at the heart of why Christians celebrate Jesus' passion, death and resurrection to begin with.
Along comes Pope Benedict XVI and the motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, clarifying the status of the Mass according to the Missal of 1962. Some Jewish leaders and others were displeased even with the modified form of the Good Friday Prayers found therein because they (1) referred to the "blindness" of the Jewish people and (2) called on God to help the Jewish people accept Jesus as the Messiah. Out of concern that his action regarding the 1962 Missal not be misunderstood as undercutting Vatican II's approach to interreligious dialogue with the Jewish people, Pope Benedict has revised the Latin prayers to exclude the reference to the "blindness" of the Jews, but he has kept the intercession for them to embrace Jesus as the savior of mankind.
(CWN has the story and an unofficial translation of the revised prayers. Here is the Catholic News Service piece carried by Catholic Online. And of course the Pope's action has generated controversy, as discussed in this New York Times story.)
What to make of Benedict's action? To be sure, Christians don't always have to pray for their Jewish brethren to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. And when we do, we don't always have to be direct in the manner in which we do it. The current English translation for the Good Friday Prayers according to the Ordinary Form refers to praying that the Jewish people "may continue to grow in the love of [God's] name and in the faithfulness to his covenant". Implicit there is the hope that the Jews will embrace Jesus as Messiah, for as Christians see it, complete faithfulness to the covenant, objectively speaking, involves recognition of its fulfillment in Jesus. The Good Friday Prayers go on to ask God that the Jewish people "arrive at the fullness of redemption", which of course refers to Jesus, who brings the fullness of redemption--although I am not sure most people asked to pray the prayer necessarily understand it as referring to Jesus.
Which brings me to the following point. While mindful of St. Paul's admonition to be at peace with all men insofar as it is in our power, as I read the Holy Father's revised version of the prayers according to the Extraordinary Form, I find myself wishing that he had also changed the Good Friday Prayers of the Ordinary Form. I want to pray for the Jewish people to "arrive at the fullness of redemption". And I want to avoid unnecessarily offending them, our elder brethren, with whom God continues to be at work in a special way. But I also don't want to be bashful about declaring who it is who brings the fullness of redemption--Jesus Christ. The revised Good Friday Prayers according to the Extraordinary Form do a better job of expressing what every Christian should pray concerning the Jewish people and indeed concerning all people: that they would acknowledge Jesus Christ as savior. If I didn't believe that, I would see no point to being a Christian. For our Jewish brethren to insist that we Christians not pray for such a thing is tantamount to their insisting that we not be Christians.