February 21, 2016.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, February 21, 2016 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm at St. Paul Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel located in the Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we encourage Inter-faith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

As Christians enter into the second week of Lent we are invited to let the Spirit guide our hearts and minds, not only into a deeper relationship with the Divine, but to a conversion that allows us to be transfigured into the merciful love of God for one another.  At our own baptism into the life of Christ we were marked both with the sign of the Cross and given the gifts of God’s own Love, Peace and Joy. As we take on the life of Christ we now are reminded that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit at His own Baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan river and then found Himself being led by that same Holy Spirit into the desert of temptation for forty days. Today our own world is filled with so many distractions from the spiritual journey that it is easy to forget what that baptism into God’s own life calls us to. The Lenten Season gives us six weeks to reflect on our own temptations and to be helped to overcome them through the disciplines of fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

Today it is the Feast of the Transfiguration that recalls the ancient texts describing the radiant face of Moses on Mt. Sinai after being in the Presence of the Divine, contrasted with the radiance emanating from Christ Himself when he takes three of His disciples up onto the mountain to pray.  So we have journeyed from the desert to the mountain for a momentary glimpse of the Glory of God made manifest to encourage us to sustain these Lenten practices with a clear understanding that the path to God’s glory, as witnessed by Jesus, is by accepting the crosses of life and transforming them into the healing works of mercy translated into our time. To feed and house the poor and provide shelter for the homeless; to welcome refugees, to heal the sick and visit the imprisoned; to work toward non-violent resolution to conflicts and for peace with justice for those living under occupation and oppression; to overcome hatred with patience and love and with undying hope in the future. For it is towards the Easter Resurrection that our Lenten journey is leading us.

Sharing our experience of Lent with our Muslim friend’s experience of Ramadan helps us to see the universality of these practices and how valuable they can be in our lives. Ramadan falls on the ninth month of the lunar calendar and was initiated by the Prophet Muhammad as a Holy Month for Muslims after the Quran was revealed to the him in 610 CE on the “Night of Power” known as Laylat al-Qadr. In the Qur’an we read:

“Ramadhan is the [month] in which was revealed the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear [Signs] for guidance and judgment [between right and wrong]. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast, and whoever is ill or on a journey, the prescribed period [should be made up] by days later. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” (Surah 2, Ayah 185)

“The spirit and intent of Ramadan lies in a human transformation in a month-long inner spiritual journey of finding oneself in tune with spirituality….The fasting of the stomach must be matched by the fasting of the limbs. The eyes, ears, tongue, hands and feet all have their respective fasts to undergo. The tongue’s temptations, for example — lies, backbiting, slander, vulgarity and senseless argumentation — must be challenged and curbed to maintain the integrity of the fast….Consciousness of behavior and vigilance over action are the most profound dimensions of fasting: the fasting of the heart focuses on the attachment to the divine. ….True fasting is self-purification; and from this comes a rich inner life that bring about values such as justice, generosity, patience, kindness, forgiveness, mercy and empathy — values that are indispensable for the success of the community…..Knowing about hunger is different from knowing hunger. Empathy is not an intellectual equation; it is a human experience. Our hardness of heart often springs from our distance from the human condition of others. The poor, sick, disenfranchised, oppressed — we rarely walk a mile in their shoes, not even a few steps. “Rest assured,” cautioned one teacher, “if you do not taste what it feels like to be hungry, you will not care for those who are.” (See Islamicity.org Interfaith Science of Ramadan: The Essence May be Traceable in Your Faith by Mike Ghouse, July 16, 2015)

Both Louis Massignon and Mahatma Ghandi practiced and wrote on the wealth of spiritual growth gained from fasting.

May this invitation by our Muslim writers to deepen our reflection and share our own experience of the numbers of ways that we are called to fast in this time of Lent enhance our gathering and lead us to spiritual growth and conversion of spirit.

Peace to you in this Holy Season.

(See www.dcbuck.com for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute)