January 20, 2013.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our shared Badaliya and Islands of Peace Institute Prayer on Sunday, January 20, 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 Inter-faith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

The past few weeks have led us from celebrating the Nativity, or birth of Jesus in Bethlehem that we call Christmas, through the feast days dedicated to the Holy Family and the visit by the Magi, or three Persian Kings, who followed a star to Bethlehem in order to honor the birth of Jesus. Then, at the moment when Jesus approaches John the Baptist to be baptized in the Jordan river, the Holy Spirit appears in the form of a dove and a Voice declares "You are my Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased." The feast of Christmas is celebrated at the time of the winter solstice, the darkest days of the year. The symbolism is powerful as we call Christ, "the Light of the world" and experience Him as the Wisdom of God, and the Nativity as the birth of Love itself into our world. Our journey as Christians is to enter into the very heart of Jesus'life and ministry to the point where we can say with St. Paul,"I live no longer I, but Christ lives in me." Ours is a rich tradition of earthy and universal symbolism like the "star" that symbolizes the Universe guiding the Magi to Bethlehem Every year as the season of Christmas draws to a close and the public ministry of Jesus begins in the Gospel readings let us reflect on how these symbolic manifestations of God's presence, with us and in us, has the power to transform our individual lives and even our world.Our faith story as Christians is the life of Jesus ever more visible in each of us and in our communities of faith.

Many of the prophets and saints found in the Judeo/Christian Bible are revered in the Qur'an too and their stories as we know them are enhanced by these revelations to the Prophet of Islam, (Peace Be Upon Him.)Opening the Qur'an we find a book, or Surah, named "Maryam" and another named "The Family of Imran".Christians may be surprised to find here the stories of Mary's birth, and that Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was her guardian as she was to be raised in the temple. Surah 3:45 in the Qur'an reveals to the Messenger:

"And (remember) when the angel said: "Mary, God gives you the glad tidings of a Word from Him, to be called the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, highly honored in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those near-stationed to God."

Who is this Jesus who is found so prominently in the Qur'an along with his mother, Mary, or Maryam? He is said to be both a "word" and a "spirit" from God and although the crucifixion is denied, the high point of Jesus' life as a prophet of God in the Qur'an is in his Ascension. Jesus in the Qur'an is compassionate, humble and gentle and His peace is spoken by Jesus himself,

"Peace be upon me the day of my birth, the day of my death, And the day I shall be raised up alive." (Surah 19:33)

Louis Massignon, who many have called a "Christian Muslim", knew these Qur'anic images well and his mentor, Blessed Charles de Foucauld is the model disciple who Massignon suggests we turn to in our Badaliya gatherings.

Blessed Charles de Foucauld wrote to a friend that from the moment that he knew that God existed he felt compelled to give his entire life to God. He wrote:

"The Gospel showed me that the first commandment is to love God with all one's heart and that love had to be the beginning and the end of everything. Everybody knows that the first effect of love is imitation, so what I had to do next was to find the [religious] Order where I could find the closest imitation of Jesus." ("Charles de Foucauld: In the footsteps of Jesus", by Little Sister Annie of Jesus Nouvelle Cité 2001 p.50)

I invite us to reflect on the Gospel story of the life of Jesus Christ and our experience of it, and to enhance our stories with those of the Qur'an and the experience of our Muslim brothers and sisters. Let Foucauld's words inspire our own:

" ...These, our arms, are the ones used by our divine Bridegroom, who asks us to let Him continue His life in us. Let us follow Him as our sole model and we are sure to do much good, for in that case it will not be we who live but He who lives in us. Our acts will no longer be our own, human and frail, but His, divine and efficacious." (Letter to Bishop Guerin, 15 January 1908, ibid. p. 116)

Peace be to you.