January 13, 2019.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, January 13, 2019 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.

The Christmas Season comes to a close today as Catholic Christians celebrate the Feast Day called the Baptism of the Lord. In these short few weeks since the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day the Church liturgy has progressively guided us to spiritually recognize Jesus as "Jesus Christ", the Anointed One of God and the Virgin Mary, as the Mother of God. The significance of last week's celebration of the Epiphany, the recognition of this new born child by three Wise Astrologers who are said to have followed a bright shining star from the East to honor Him is followed today by a momentary leap forward in time to Jesus as a young man joining the crowds to be baptized in the Jordan river by John the Baptist. We are told in the Gospel according to Luke that "after Jesus was baptized and was praying heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in a bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "you are my beloved Son: with you I am well pleased".

We are confronted with two profound mysteries. Jesus is being revealed as God's Son and Mary, as the Mother of God. As we pointed out last month, the Qur'an honors both Mary and her son, Jesus in many ways as spiritually significant for Muslims as they are for Christians but the Church has defined these two very distinct differences. Let us begin today with Mary for she represents a wonderful bridge for all three Abrahamic faith traditions.

Throughout the early centuries of Christianity, spiritual and theological questions arose as Christians struggled to interpret the significance of the experience expressed in the Gospels of the New Testament, or Christian Scriptures. In the year 431CE the Third Ecumenical Council was held in Ephesus, Asia Minor, (modern day Turkey) where leaders from Christian churches throughout the Roman Empire were called together. It was at this Council that it was agreed that the Virgin Mary was to be known as theotokos, or Mother of God. This understanding is of course directly related to the miraculous birth of Jesus as wonderfully described in both the Christian Scriptures and in Sura 19 in the Qur'an. Mary's total submission, her "Yes" to the will of God in response to the announcement of the angel serves as a model of faith for both Christians and Muslim believers.

In his search for the sources of compassion and religious experience that link all three Abrahamic faith traditions, Louis Massignon "reminds us that Abraham's God was first revealed to the Jewish people, among whom we find the young Mary. He calls her a 'daughter of Abraham'." He connected the sacrifice of Isaac, (Ishmael in the Qur'an), to the mystery of the Annunciation and to the way that God chooses unexpected persons through whom to fulfill God's promise of life. Although the young Jewish, Mary as well as her son, Jesus are not acknowledged in Judaism, Massignon envisioned them as intrinsically connected to their Jewish roots and Biblical history. He wrote that Mary was,"...suspected (or ignored) for 2000 years by her people for whom she had infinite love, because in order to save her people she laid bare the secret vow of an immaculate heart, something that was even greater than Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac." Massignon had an exceptional vision of Mary's place in God's plan for Salvation History.

May we too grow in our experience of trust and faith as we reflect together on these spiritual mysteries and pray together for peace with justice in the New Year.

Peace to you,

Quotations from "Dialogues with Saints and Mystics" p. 203

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