April 21,2013.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our shared Badaliya and Islands of Peace Institute Prayer on Sunday, April 21, 2013 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm at St. Pauls Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel located in the Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we encourage Interfaith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

During these 50 days following Holy Week, which culminated in the first experience of an appearance of the Risen Christ by the disciples on Easter Sunday, Christians are called to ponder one of the greatest mysteries of our faith, the Resurrection of Jesus. An empty tomb leads Mary Magdalene to mistake Him for a gardener and when she cries out, "Where have you laid Him?" He calls her by name. The lesson is repeated when two disciples are walking away from Jerusalem on the road to Emmaus discussing all that had happened there when a stranger joins them. He explains to them how all that they had experienced was foreshadowed in the Scriptures, then He joins them for dinner. They only recognize Him when He takes the bread and breaks it. And then He disappears.

There are many appearances of the Risen Lord described in the Scripture readings during these 50 days and in each we are invited to recognize where we are to find Him, in our lives, and in our world. Mary Magdalene, a woman who tradition describes as having needed Jesus to transform her life which led her to experience great love for Him as her Lord, became the first witness. Other women were reported to have seen an angel in the empty tomb who asked them why they were seeking the living among the dead? When they run back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples that Jesus is Risen, they are not believed.

We are invited to pay attention to the many examples for us in these stories of our own humanity and God's unexpected way of healing us from our unbelief, blindness and lack of trust in others. God knows us by name and calls us that we may recognize Him, but only when we are looking, or open to hearing His voice. We don't always trust the experience of others and especially the experience of women. And yet in the Gospel it is the women who "see" and understand what has happened. And finally God appears to us in the strangers, the immigrants and refugees who enter our lives, and when we offer them hospitality He is there with us.

After appearing to the disciples during forty days and instructing them to remain in Jerusalem until their baptism with the Holy Spirit, Jesus will be taken up into Heaven and return to God, much like the prophet Elijah before Him. In the Qur'an, Surah 3:55 we find the following:

"(It was part of His executing His will) when God said: 'Jesus (as your mission has ended) I will take you back and raise you up to Myself, and will purify you of (the groundless slanders of) those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me you will all return, and I will judge between you concerning all that on which you were used to differ.'" In Muslim tradition the Prophet Muhammad also Ascended into Heaven on his famous Night Journey but unlike Jesus his mission was not yet complete. Therefore on this journey he received the remaining revelations necessary to complete his mission on earth.

In the Gospel according to John (3;16-21) we are told,"God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life...... whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever has not believed has already been condemned...." This is the full measure of God's extraordinary love for us, that He gives us complete freedom to choose our path to the fulness of life in Him, or reject it.

There is much to reflect on as we ponder these messages of the Easter Season that highlight in bright colors the enormity of God's self-giving love.Ours is a God who empties Himself for us completely and offers us the greatest example of true love; total freedom of choice.

There is much for us to ponder together as believers as we reflect on these verses in the Gospels and the Qur'an.

Peace to you.