April 24, 2022.
Due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic we will gather together remotely for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday April 24, 2022 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm. 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, in the Holy Land, a slowing of the pandemic and an end to the war in the Ukraine.
As our Muslim friends and communities around the world enter into their month of fasting, prayer and alms-giving, Christians have begun the liturgical time that we call Mystagogy. Our Lenten practices were meant to prepare us to enter into the most sacred time of our liturgical year that we call "Holy Week". Entering more fully into the experience of Jesus with his dramatic entry into Jerusalem, suffering his subsequent arrest and torturous trial and crucifixion with him, those who have been baptized into the life of Christ also rise again with him into new life and Resurrection. At the Easter Vigil, bringing us from darkness to light, we welcomed newly baptized adult Christians into this Divine Mystery. Mystagogy ("the interpretation of mystery") is the final period of the initiation of adults into the Catholic Church community. During this period the meaning of the Sacraments is explained to those who have newly received them as they meet together to unpack their own experience of them for the next 50 days until Pentecost, the experience of the Holy Spirit. Today, the first Sunday after Easter, is dedicated to Divine Mercy, the recognition and thanksgiving for the unconditional mercy and love of the Divine for all of humanity.
This is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and Ramadan began at the first sighting of the crescent of a new moon on April 2nd. In both of our faith traditions the emphasis on fasting takes on great significance in our sense of the Divine in our lives and informs our relationship with others as well. Iftar dinners, the breaking of the fast that lasts from sunup to sundown, is a traditional shared meal that brings the community together and often friends and neighbors are also invited to enter into the experience.
This sharing of the experience of one another's faith traditions took on a deeply spiritual meaning for Louis Massignon as he invited others to join him in "crossing over to the other" to experience Islam as the Muslims do. He invited his Muslim friends, as well as his Jewish friends, to share in the Badaliya prayer of substitution. He fasted throughout the month of Ramadan in solidarity with Muslims throughout the world and his witness inspired many Christians to follow his example in dedicating their lives to the Muslim communities around them. Starting with the example of his mentor and friend, Brother Charles de Foucauld, who was an early influence on this trajectory in his life, others followed Massignon, such as the Jesuit Priest Paolo Dall'Oglio and Father Christian de Cherge, both of whom sacrificed their lives, as did Foucauld, in continuing this path in the midst of wars that put their lives at risk.
The first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during the month of Ramadan and therefore the emphasis is on reading and reflecting, or listening to recitations of the Holy Book. The dedication to Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving in both traditions during Lent and Ramadan are meant to more fully integrate our daily lives with our spiritual lives. Focusing on fasting we can turn to the many references to fasting, called Sawm in the Qur'an, that have guided the practices of it by Muslims to this day.
"You who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may ward off evil. Fast a certain number of days, and for the one who is sick among you, or on a journey, the same number of other days; and for those who can afford it there is ransom: feeding of a man in need- but the one who does good of his own accord, it is better for him..." (Qur'an 2:183)
The emphasis is on fasting from physical nourishment from meals in order to experience the emptiness that comes from hunger and thirst. In both traditions, this empty feeling within us makes room for the Divine. In prayer, we are able listen to the verses of the Gospel or the Qur'an and hear what we are meant to hear that can enrich our lives. The question may be to ask ourselves what we are hungering and thirsting for, in our lives, and in our world?
Fasting, in the words of Pope Francis, may speak to some of those hungers and thirsts:
Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
Fast from worries and have trust in God.
Fast from complaints; contemplate simplicity.
Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
Fast from bitterness; fill your hearts with joy.
Fast from selfishness and be compassionate.
Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
Fast from words; be silent and listen.
We are compelled to add to this list with the following:
Fast from violence and war as a solution to conflict and become peacemakers.
I am dedicating this gathering of Christians and Muslims to a dear friend and model of peace making who passed into Eternal Life this month. We were privileged to welcome Father Drew Christiansen SJ to our monthly gatherings when he was in the Boston area on a sabbatical a few years ago. We have lost a gentle voice of peace and wisdom in our conflict-ridden world.
May our listening help us to hear the voice of the Divine in the midst of so many tragic conflicts, especially in the Ukraine, the Middle East and the Holy Land. May our "swords be turned into pruning hooks". May our prayer "lead us to "feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger" and protect our beautiful planet.
Blessed Ramadan to all of our Muslim friends around the world
Peace to you,
See www.dcbuck.com for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute