December 15, 2019.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, December 15, 2019 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.

Christians believers are in the midst of a four-week liturgical time, called Advent. We are praying and waiting with hopeful expectation for nothing less than a miracle. At the time that the Christian story began, more than 2000 years ago, a small population of Jewish believers lived under the occupation of the vast Roman Empire in Palestine. They were an oppressed people waiting for a Messiah to set them free, to save them.

By the daily living practice of their faith tradition, our Muslim brothers and sisters are testifying to the primary miracle in Islam every day; the supernatural intervention into the life of a simple merchant named Muhammad producing the verses in the Arabic language known as the Qur'an. The revelation of the Qur'an is considered to be Muhammad's one major miracle that defines him as the Prophet of God, or Allah. In Islam, the Arabic term for miracle, Ayah, can refer to the miracles of Creation itself, but also to a "sign" of God active in the life of a human being, such as the "sign" of God present in the revelation of the Qur'an, God's word in human language, to Muhammad.

In Catholic Christianity, the words in the Marian prayer called the Angelus beautifully summarize the miracle that we are waiting for during Advent. "And the Word was made flesh and Dwelt among us". Just as Muslims experience the Qur'an as the Word of God, the Gospel according to St. John identifies Jesus Christ as the Word of God. "In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through him all things were made ... In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it".

The Gospel continues by describing "a man sent by God, whose name was John". In our readings in today's liturgy we heard the story of John the Baptist asking if Jesus is the Messiah so longed for by the Jewish people. He was a witness, or an announcer of the light of Christ that was to come into the world. Just as Christians acknowledge the importance of John the Baptist in the Christian story, so Muslims revere him as one of their significant prophets.

The miracle that we are waiting for is about an angel of God appearing to a young Jewish girl named Mary who lived in a backwater village named Nazareth. In the midst of her prayer she is told that she will conceive a child and call him Jesus. When she objects, saying that she has not known a man, the angel tells her that the Holy Spirit will come to her and the power of the Most-High will overshadow her. There are multiple miracles in this story, and in the one about her found in the Qur'an, but the one that may touch the hearts of all believers may be that she accepts in total faith, and submission to, God's word saying, "Let it be done to me according to your word". We call this acceptance by the Virgin Mary, the Fiat.

In our last gathering we discussed Divine Wisdom, which is justice, and discerning the will of God in our lives. Today we are called to experience the miraculous birth of the Divine in the form of a tiny infant who will change the course of human history forever. In a description of a pilgrimage for healing to the Marian shrine in Lourdes, France that was organized in 1959 for Christians and Muslims together, Louis Massignon wrote:

"Miracles suspend the normal chain of secondary causes of events and sets them directly in motion ... " Muslim and Christian pilgrims "will eventually understand that if one cannot attribute everything to created causes here below, neither is everything a kind of blind miracle due to the abstract magic of rituals, or the formalizing of purifications; that in miracles God is Personal, and that the Marian "Fiat" introduces the three powers of the miraculously cured person's soul to the mystery of the supra-essential life of love, the mystery of Love, the Lover and the Beloved, these three in the unity of God alone."

Let us pray together for increased hope in the miracle of Christmas and the promise of Peace in our hearts and in our world that this sacred season represents.

Peace to you, and a blessed Christmas Season,

Quotation from: Louis Massignon, a Pioneer of Interfaith Dialogue, Convocation - January 2, 1959 p. 167 Blue Dome Press 2016.

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