January 19, 2020.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, January 19, 2020 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 Christian spiritual journey begins with our Baptism into what we call the life of Christ. In our faith journey we experience our own lives through the lens of the Gospel descriptions of the life of Jesus, whose miraculous birth into our world we anticipated during the four weeks of Advent and celebrated during the Christmas Season. In our liturgical celebrations of Mass during the last few weeks we experienced the birth of a tiny infant on Christmas Day, the recognition of his divine origins by three astrologers from the East, called the feast of the Epiphany and his own baptism in the Jordan river by John the Baptist. Today the reading from the Gospel describes the experience of John the Baptist who, when he sees him coming identifies Jesus as the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and states," I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'On whomever you see the spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God." There is much to be unpacked in this one reading.

In Semitic languages and culture one's name as one's identity is often descriptive, such as the son or daughter of what we would call the family name, or even the profession, such as son of the carpenter. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the "Son of Man" is used extensively indicating one's human nature. Jesus gives himself the title of "Son of Man" much like the prophetic figures in the Hebrew tradition. In his baptism with water by John the Baptist the voice of God declares him as his chosen son. The name Christ signifies the Anointed One. To live a Christian life, we are confronted with what the Church calls a Mystery: the equally human and divine nature of the Anointed One.

In the Qur'an, Yahya ibn Zakariyya is translated John, son of Zechariah, who was the protector and uncle to Mary. John's birth was miraculous because his father was aged and his mother was barren. Zekariyya prayed to be blessed with a son as a successor who would preach the way of Islam. He is known as an ascetic and a major prophet in Islam.

[And when the son was born and grew up, he was told,] "O John! Hold fast unto the divine writ with [all thy] strength!"- for We granted him wisdom "while he was yet a little boy, as well as, by Our grace, [the gift of] compassion and purity; and he was [always] conscious of Us and full of piety towards his parents; and never was he haughty or rebellious. Hence, [God's] peace was upon him on the day when he was born, and on the day of his death, and, will be [upon him] on the day when he shall be raised to life [again]. (Qur'an 19: 12-15)

We notice that in Islam John's name is not identified as the Baptist. Instead, his mission was to call the people of Israel back to their covenant to worship the One God faithfully. In both traditions Jesus and John are chosen by God. In our own identification as believing Christians and Muslims we can reflect together on how we have each been named and chosen.

As members of the Badaliya we remember the extraordinary experiences of calling and transformation lived by both the founder, Louis Massignon and his mentor, Blessed Charles de Foucauld in their mid-twenties. Foucauld wrote:

"Independent of my will, exterior events forced me to detach from material things which had a lot of appeal for me, and which held back my soul and attached it to the earth. You violently broke these ties like many others! How good You are my God, to have shattered everything around me, to have so annihilated everything which prevented me from belonging to You alone...." (Six, JF, 1958. Itinéraire Spiritual de Charles de Foucauld, Paris, éditions du Seuil. p 83)

May we continue to grow in our relationship with God and one another. May we pray always for renewed efforts by all nations and individuals for an end to violent solutions to conflict and for peace with justice for all people in this New Year 2020.

Peace to you,

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