March 16, 2014.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Islands of Peace Institute Faith Sharing on Sunday, March 16, 2014 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 Interfaith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

As Christians enter more and more fully into the life of Christ during this season of Lent we are called to follow Jesus out into the desert wilderness to fast and pray and to lift up our hearts to the highest mountain terrain in order to encounter the mystery of the Holy One. There are abundant images in the Scriptures of the desert and the mountains, metaphors for the spiritual journey to which we are all called. Moses receives the Torah, the first five books of the Bible and the central commands of the Jewish faith tradition in the Ten Commandments, directly from God on Mount Sinai, also known as Mount Horeb. The Prophet Elijah running from persecution, hides on Mount Carmel and hears the soft whisper of God's voice in the silence. In order to fully embrace his public ministry Jesus goes out into the desert for forty days to confront the temptations that would most prevent him from fulfilling his mission and his focus on the primacy of God before all else in life.

The significance of the forty day fast and prayer for our Lenten journey is not lost on us if we remember the forty days and nights of the flood and Noah's Arc, the forty years that the Jewish tribes wandered in the desert wilderness after leaving Egypt.described in the book of Exodus in the Bible, and the forty days and nights in the desert that preceded the public ministry of Jesus. The number forty in Jewish gematria, or numerology, suggests a time of transition, transformation and conversion of mind and hearts. Today we are invited to accompany Jesus and three of his disciples to another mountain called Mount Tabor where the glory of God's love visibly bursts forth from within Jesus, "transfigured before them: his face shown like the sun and his clothes became white as light." There he is seen conversing with Moses and Elijah and a voice is heard. "This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased, listen to him." (Mt. 17:1-9) On the mountain we fall to our knees in fear and awe of the Holy and recognize the immense challenge of our call to seek to live a holy life.

East of the holy city of Mecca, in present day Saudi Arabia, there is a granite hill called Mount Arafat or Arafah, which comes from the arabic verb, arafa, to know. It is also known as the Mount of Mercy. In Muslim tradition Adam and Eve, separated for 200 years following their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, were reconciled to each other and to Allah on this site in the Arabian desert. On the ninth day of the annual Hajj, or pilgrimage that is required of all Muslims once in a lifetime if they can afford it, pilgrims spend the entire day together on the plain of Arafat praying and repenting of their sins. It is the final day of the pilgrimage. A hadith, or saying of the Prophet states that praying and fasting in repentence on this day will forgive the sins of the entire past year and the following. It is considered the most important ritual day of the entire Hajj. It is so important that if this day is missed by a pilgrim their pilgrimage is not valid. Those that are not able to participate in the Hajj also make this a day of fasting and prayer. Tradition also states that it was on this 70 meter high hill on the day of Arafat during the Muslim Hajj that the Prophet Muhammad gave his farewell sermon before 114,000 pilgrims in 632CE, the year that he died. It is also said that a verse in the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad at this time declaring that the Islamic religion was completed on the day of Arafat, the day of knowing.

Our Lenten journey is also a pilgrimage accompanying Jesus on the way to the Holy City of Jerusalem where his mission on earth comes to completion and our new life in Christ begins.

Let us pray together for all those who suffer oppression, persecution, violence and conflict throughout the world, especially in the Middle East and the Holy Land. May we share our fasting and prayers with our Muslim friends and may we all be blest during the Easter Season.

Peace to you.