December 9, 2018.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, December 9, 2018 from 1:00 pm to 2:30 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.

As Christians throughout the world enter into the four-week season of Advent, preparing our hearts and minds for the birth of Jesus on Christmas, Catholics are called to take a moment to reflect on the meaning of the liturgical year in our tradition. The year ends with a solemnity dedicated to Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe on the Sunday before the beginning of the new Liturgical year. Jesus Christ honored as King may seem antithetical to the images we have of the compassionate sacrificial life of Jesus who unwaveringly offered His life to the Father God He called Abba, or Daddy. And yet this very image of Christ, King of the Universe provides a powerful sense of the significance of the birth of this child that we await anew every year. Catholic Christians recognize the Bible, that includes both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, as "Salvation History" as opposed to our contemporary understanding of history that seeks out biographical facts and details of a subject's life. Salvation History is the Biblical story of God's everlasting relationship with humanity. We hear the readings from the Bible from the perspective of the faith experiences of the ancient Hebrew people and expressed in the Christian scriptures by those first Apostles and followers of Jesus in His time. If we have taken seriously our past year of entering into Jesus' life journey through the metaphoric parables and rich examples of Jesus as a prophetic revelation of God's Love in the world, we can grasp moments of recognizing Him as the quintessential image of the human and Divine relationship to which we are all called. It took six hundred years of reflection and Church Councils for the Christian faith experience to be fully absorbed and expressed, identifying Jesus Christ as the Second Person in the relational aspect of Love in the Trinitarian Mystery of the Godhead.

The Incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas in the miraculous birth of Jesus remembers the deeper significance of a story that begins with the Announcement of an Angel to the Virgin Mary followed by Jesus declaring that John the Baptist is the new Elijah, the fulfillment of the ancient Hebrew's expectation that the return of the Prophet Elijah would hail the coming of the long- awaited Messiah. The one who would initiate the Kingdom of God on earth, peace among nations and an end to suffering and violence. Our many images of Christ, as fully Human and Divine, as Redeemer, the One who frees us from slavery to become God's children, and the One who makes the ultimate sacrificial gift of Himself to the Father out of love for all of us is the reason we end our liturgical year honoring Jesus Christ as King of the Universe, because He is gloriously rewarded by the Father in His Resurrection. Is it not the role of an authentic King to sacrifice his life for the well-being of his people? Thus, we begin the Advent season preparing and waiting for the Incarnation of a new life, born into this world anew every year to redeem us and lead us to a deeper awareness of our profound relationship with God so that we can rejoice together on Christmas Day.

Muslims will recognize many of the Biblical figures in this story as they appear in the Qur'an. Maryam is honored with a whole Sura, or chapter, dedicated to her story with many details beyond what is found in the Christian Scriptures, and her son, Jesus miraculously speaks as an infant. The Prophets John and Elijah are found there along with many others also found in the Bible. Jesus is honored as a Prophet second only in stature to the Prophet Muhammad. Only when Islam as a faith tradition not only unified the tribal cultures of the Arabian Peninsula, but spread to nations throughout the world would Muslims too grasp their full significance of the birth of their Prophet Muhammad. Like with our Christian Christmas story, sometimes it takes knowing the ending of a story to fully grasp the significance of the beginning.

Let us pray together in this season of Advent that the promise of peace with justice be fulfilled in the New Year and may we rejoice together on Christmas Day!

Peace to you,

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