March 18, 2018.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, March 18, 2018 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.

Throughout these forty days of Lent, Christians have been praying with scripture passages that have led us further and further into recognizing the saving actions of God in our world. The Covenant or promise that God made with Noah after the devastating flood is seen by Christians as a pre-figuring of our Baptism. This ritual cleansing in the waters of Baptism and rising again to new life is the saving action of God that promises us new life in Him. By fasting, becoming aware of all that keeps us far from God we again see God's saving power in our lives.

Massignon had much to say about fasting. He wrote:

"The essence of the Fast is in ceasing to count on the possession of any spiritual good, even of Sovereign Good. They say that this is what the descent into Hell means, but it is precisely this sacrifice to humility that Satan, in his jealous desire for divine perfection, refused to make: this crucifying sacrifice that liberates souls by setting fire to the Hell of jealousy and hatred in order to make cool air and Peace reign."(Convocation 85 p. 267)

Here we are reminded of the depiction of Iblis in Islam, the "fallen angel" who is mentioned eleven times in the Qur'an. He refused to bow down before Adam, the new creation, as God commanded. Iblis argued that because he was created from fire and Adam was made from mud that he was superior. Banished to hell he is allowed by God to try to mislead Adam and his descendants but is warned that he will have no power over God's true servants. Some Sufi mystics understood Iblis as seeing himself as the true lover of God who refuses to bow in adoration of another. Rumi, the Sufi poet and mystic, saw Iblis as suffering from the sin of envy and his inability to see the spark of the Divine in human beings. In the end, his efforts to turn us away from God are temptations for us to give in to our very human selfish desires, possessiveness and greed, tendency to seek power over others and to worship the false idols of money and material possessions. This is the challenge that we face in this Lenten Season as we prepare our inner most being for the saving power of God that we will experience during the coming Holy Week leading us to the celebration of renewed life in God at Easter.

Massignon wrote:

"The act of fasting is the virginal basin into which flows the word of divine Justice, the word of Resurrection. Fasting makes us hunger and thirst for Justice, which is the consummation of Love. Fasting is an action, an active prayer of Badaliya. We have asked the Pope to bless it every first Friday of the month for the return of a serene peace between Christianity and Islam." (Annual Letter VII p. 38-39)

May our Lenten practice lead us to compassion and love for God and one another as we remember that God loved us first.

Blessed Holy Week and Easter,

Peace to you,

Quotations from: D.C. Buck, ed. Louis Massignon; Pioneer of Interfaith Dialogue: The Badaliya Prayer Movement, Blue Dome Press, 2016.

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