April 18, 2018.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, April 15, 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.

This Sunday marks the third Sunday after the celebration of Easter. Christians are in a 50-day time of reflection on the meaning of the events of Holy Week, the cruel betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus and the celebration of His Resurrection three days later on Easter Sunday. During these past three weeks, we have heard about appearances of the Risen Christ to His disciples. The first was Mary Magdalen who has come to be known as the Apostle to the Apostles because of her experience. Then we heard of His remarkable breaking open of the scriptures on the road to Emmaus with two of his disciples and of their recognition of Him in His sharing of the breaking of the bread. His appearances to the disciples as they cowered in fear of persecution in the Upper Room in Jerusalem highlight how extraordinary these experiences were for them. It was in fact life changing and in a few weeks, we will see how it empowered them to go out to preach the Gospel message in spite of the risk of persecution.

If we focus on the breaking open of the scriptures on the road to Emmaus we will see how Christians have come to understand the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures in relation to the Christian New Testament in comparison to the Muslim understanding of both of them. When the Risen Christ explains the scripture to the disciples he points out the many passages in the Old Testament that are a foreshadowing of the coming of Christ as well as the fulfillment in his person of the Old Testament promises.

Jesus was a Jew who was thoroughly educated in the Old Testament Law and the Prophets. In his parables and teachings, he often referred to figures and events from the Hebrew Scriptures. A most moving example is when he cries out the first words of Psalm 22 as he is hanging on the Cross," My God my God, why have you abandoned me?" And we know that Jesus knew the rest of this poignant call for help and that the Psalm ends with a song of deliverance and praise for God's saving power. For Christians Jesus fulfills the promises of the Old Testament in example after example. It is he who is spoken of by the prophet Isaiah in the suffering servant passages and it is he who came to be seen as the new Adam and who shaped the commandments of Moses into a Gospel of God's Love for all of humanity. We hear Jesus say in the Gospel according to Luke 24:35-43:
" Everything written in the Law of Moses and the prophets must be fulfilled", and we read on that "then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures."

In contrast, Muslims identify three sets of books from the Bible as genuine. Divine Revelation given to messengers of God: The five books of the Torah given to the prophet Moses, the Psalms given to the prophet David and the Gospels given to the prophet Jesus. Traditional Muslim teaching stresses those passages in the Qur'an that affirm the Christian Gospel and the Hebrew Torah as valid revelations of God and paths to salvation. "Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which has been sent down to us and that which has been sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and to Al-Asbaat [the Twelve Tribes of Israel], and that which has been given to Moses and Jesus, and that which has been given to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have submitted (in Islam)" [The Quran: Al-Baqarah 2:136]

However, the Islamic belief is that the scriptures were revealed for a specific people and for a specific amount of time and when new revelations arrived, they superseded the old ones. The Qur'an revealed to the Prophet Muhammad is the final revelation until the end of times, or the Last Judgement. Muslims understand the Old Testament as specifically meant for the Jewish people only and that the original oral teachings of Jesus that were passed on to the communities before being written and canonized were distorted in that process. The Qur'an points to those discrepancies. However, the main message for Muslims in relation to both the Old and New Testaments as well as the Qur'an is the call to believe in the One God of all that is created in the Universe.

In the final analysis, the Scriptures and the Qur'an are life giving examples of Salvation History, God's saving Word and actions, encouraging us on our earthly journeys toward the heavenly Jerusalem.

Peace to you,

Islamic references from Wikipedia and quran.com.

(See www.dcbuck.com for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute)