April 14, 2019.
We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, April 14, 2019 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.
Christians throughout the world are entering into the most significant time in the Church calendar this week. Today is called Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday. We begin the journey with Jesus as he descends into Jerusalem riding on the back of a common Ass or beast of burden. In his life on earth, and in ours, this holiest week of the year is retold, remembered and re-experienced by Christian believers calling us to experience our own life journey, our failures, painful losses and even the reality of our own death as part of the significance of the events of this Holy Week. We are on a journey from death into eternal life.
On this Holy Thursday, Jesus will gather with his disciples in Jerusalem for the traditional Jewish Passover ritual meal commemorating the way that God passed over the homes of the enslaved Israelites in Egypt and slew every first born Egyptian in the land. The Lord spared the Israelites who had taken the blood of a slaughtered lamb or goat, dipped it in hyssop and sprinkled it on their doorposts. This caused the Pharaoh and the Egyptians to demand that Moses and Aaron leave the land of Egypt taking all of the Israelites with them. This was the Exodus. The beginning of a journey from slavery into freedom.
God told Moses: "Tell the whole community of Israel: On the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one a piece for each household ... the lamb must be a year-old male without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats". (Exodus 12: 3-5)
Reflecting on the Passover ritual and this passage we may first notice the use of a sacrificial lamb and how in our Holy Thursday Passover Jesus identifies Himself, and offers Himself, his own body and blood, as the sacrifice that will lead all of us from slavery to sin and death to the freedom of eternal life in God. We may also notice an interesting use of the analogy of sheep and goats in the Gospel according to Matthew verse 25:
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. And then the King will say to those on his right, "Come you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you? And the King will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me noe drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Matthew 25:31-46)
This Gospel passage, known as the Last Judgement, is immediately followed by the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus that we are re-enacting and entering into this Holy Week. Metaphorically connected to one another these images allow us to envision ourselves as the sheep, the lamb, and sometimes the goats in our daily lives.
Our Muslim friends share with us a profound awareness of the Last Judgement and believe that life does not end with our death on earth but is followed by eternal life in the hereafter. In the Qur'an it is written,
"To God we belong and to Him we shall return". (surah 2:156) On the day of Judgement all will be resurrected to give an account of their lives on earth. The Qur'an states: "On that Day, people will come forward in separate groups to be shown their deeds: whoever has done an atom's weight of good will see it, but whoever has done an atom's weight of evil will see that." (surah 99:68) Out of His Mercy, God pardons whom He wills in the hereafter. God promises us in the Quran: "And those who believe and do righteous deeds - We will surely remove from them their misdeeds and will surely reward them according to the best of what they used to do" (29:7).
Christians will walk the way of the cross with Jesus and standing at the foot of it will hear him say, "Forgive them, Father for they know not what they do." And to the thief who acknowledges his sinfulness and is being crucified next to him, we will hear Jesus say, "This day you will be with me in Paradise." It will be a long vigil of mourning through the night and all day on Holy Saturday before those words will find their fullest meaning on Easter morning, the day of Resurrection.
We can share our joy that day with our Muslim friends who know from the Qur'an that,"[To the righteous it will be said], "O reassured soul, return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him], and enter among My [righteous] servants, and enter My Paradise." (Quran, 89:27-30) And that Surah 75:40 suggests that if God, or Allah, is able to create human beings from a drop of semen, "Is He (Who does that equally) not able to bring the dead back to life?"
On March 28th 1958 in his Convocation letter to members of the Badaliya, Massignon wrote:
"During this time of Lent, as we prepare ourselves to participate in the Passion of the Master, let us not respond to the criticisms or the threats of those evangelizing Pharisees and Patriotic Sadducees who are causing us much grief, in Israel as well as in France, for not wanting to apply the Lex Talionis [as eye for an eye] to our 'Muslim and Arab enemies'. It is written in Paragraph 1-4 of our rule about our particular responsibility toward our Muslim brothers among whom we live, that, 'Having suffered in the past and still suffering because of them, we wish to practice the highest kind of Christian charity toward them, according to our Lord's precept 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you' (Mt. 5:44)"
Although these words were written 50 years ago they speak loudly to us today as we refuse to respond to those who would have us reject and even despise all Muslims for the violence toward Christians and even other Muslim believers perpetrated in the name of religion by a minority of radicalized persons. Let us pray for all of them in this holy time of Lent and seek forgiveness for our own biases and unconscious fears of those who have a different religion or race or nationality or political persuasion from our own. Let us learn to Love one another as God has loved us.
Peace to you,
References: Louis Massignon: Pioneer in Interfaith Dialogue: The Badaliya Prayer Movement. ed. D. Buck 2016, Blue Dome Press. p.144
(See www.dcbuck.com for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute)