November 20, 2016.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, November 20, 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.

In the liturgical calendar in the Catholic Christian tradition, today marks the end of the annual yearly cycle with a solemn feast day called, Christ the King. It may be difficult for us today to relate to the modern concept of a King, and its association to a monarchy, with our images of Jesus, yet this feast was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in order to highlight for Catholic Christians that Jesus, known as the Christ, is Lord of the Universe. Balancing our experience of Jesus as both Lord and fully Divine, and also fully human is one of the great spiritual Mysteries of the Church.

Pius XI announced the feast in his encyclical, Quas Primus, which was delivered on December 11, 1925. At the end of the encyclical, Pius XI described three "blessings" that would result from celebrating this feast, the first of which included the statement that the Church "has a natural and inalienable right to perfect freedom and immunity from the power of the State." We easily relate to this as a politically wise pronouncement, especially in the Western world, yet this is also a significant spiritual pronouncement if we put it together with "Lord of the Universe." We are being invited to celebrate Christ the King in order to remind us to recognize how we can so easily make our human "kings", or possessions, or money, or achievements, or political leaders or other celebrities into "gods". It is a sober reminder to turn back and to worship only the One God, Creator and Sustainer of all of us and of our Universe.

The opening Sura in the Qur'an, called the Fatiha, invites all Muslim believers to worship the One Lord of the Universe as well, and in this, both our faith traditions find common ground. Although Jesus is honored as a prophet, second only to the Prophet Muhammad in Islam, both Islam and Judaism differ from our Christian understanding of Jesus. Perhaps what this feast day invites us to reflect upon together then is rather how we experience the Divine in our daily lives. In what ways does the fast-paced developments in technology, globalization and the daily onslaught of information that confront us with the violent conflicts raging in our world today distract us from the human beings around us and what God calls us to become in relation to one another.

Today also marks the close of a Jubilee year dedicated to Mercy declared by Pope Francis. The two then are joined together in the invitation to experience God as both Lord of the Universe and as God of Merciful Love. The Fatiha perhaps says it best: "In the name of God, the All Compassionate, the All Merciful, Praise be to God, Lord of the Universe."

The description of a Jubilee year can be found in the Book of Leviticus in the Hebrew Bible and is a call to atonement, to personal and communal reflection, and as an opportunity to bring back a sense of peace more in keeping with the "Kingdom" of God. This year has seen the need for God's Merciful Love starkly before us in the faces of the millions of refugees escaping violence in their homelands, forced to emigrate and looking to us to welcome them to a new home. Is this not the way that God's Mercy is manifest in human history?

In November 1953 in Paris, France Louis Massignon mentored a "fraternal movement", a circle of young Christians and Muslims that quickly grew from 15 to 44 members. They wanted "to unite those who already live as brothers in prayer, repentance, and action for Peace and Justice" and asked others to join them in "praying to God to accept our humble response to the Hatred that causes believers to rise up against one another." More than sixty years later our small gathering of believers are called to make the same prayer together and to be Merciful Love in our contemporary world.

Peace to you,

(See for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute)