April 19, 2020.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday April 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. At this moment, faced with the necessity of social distancing due to the worldwide pandemic called the corona virus threatening all of us, our gathering is taking place remotely.

With Churches closed everywhere at this time, we have been greatly blessed that we live in an era where technology has allowed us to experience our Lenten Fast and celebrate the great events of Holy Week and Easter on-line.

The Catholic Christian tradition, on this first weekend after the great celebration of Easter Resurrection, is devoted to Divine Mercy. This image of God as Divine Mercy is well placed as we begin to break open the miraculous events of Easter during the next eight weeks. But it is particularly relevant given this extraordinary plague that has so disrupted our normal lives and communal activities.

The transformation in one week from the pain and suffering of a cruel and unjust crucifixion of the innocent Jesus to the joy and recognition of the resurrected Christ is emotionally challenging to say the least. This is a demonstration of Divine Love in its most graphic and yet mysterious form. What it meant to those first witnesses, and most importantly, what it means to each one of us today has been the source of spiritual growth and inspiration for generations of Christians.

In 1931 in the midst of one of the world's most devastating financial depressions, a young Polish Nun of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy recorded in her diary a vision of the risen Christ. She wrote that from His heart she saw two beams of light, one symbolizing His blood, shed on the Cross for the salvation of all of humanity and reminding us of the Mystery of the Eucharist, and the other the water that poured forth from his pierced side at the crucifixion, a reminder of our Baptism. "Jesus, I trust in You" was written at the bottom of the image. St. Faustina wrote that Jesus promised her that "the soul who venerated this image would not perish". She was Canonized as a Saint in the Roman Catholic Church on April 30, 2000. As with all our images and icons inspired by the great mystics of the Church, they are meant to draw us toward them in contemplation and through them to the Mystery of Divine Love. Is not the grief-stricken image of Mary, the mother of Jesus at the foot of the Cross a very human image of love? How did the suffering and passion of Jesus become one of the most powerful demonstrations of God's love, of Divine love for all of humanity? True unconditional love requires unconditional sacrifice. The life story of Jesus is a shocking example of how we are to love God and one another unconditionally. Even to the point of offering our own lives for the well-being, the salvation of the soul, of another human being. That is Massignon's Badaliya: substitutionary prayer.

What is clear in the Church's choice of scriptural readings for this first Sunday after Easter is the excitement and inexpressible joy that the first disciples experience when Jesus miraculously appears to them after his Crucifixion. At the same time, they are immediately given the sacred mission to become the witnesses and examples of Divine Mercy to the world. "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he said this he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit..." (John 20:31) It is through the Holy Spirit, that we too have received at our Baptism, that we can find the strength and courage to follow Christ and be Badaliya for one another.

Blessed Charles de Foucauld, Louis Massignon, Christian de Chergé, the Prior of the well-known monks of Tibhirine, and the Jesuit, Paolo Dall'Oglio are some of the growing line of Christian witnesses whose faith was deeply affected by their encounter with Islam. In the spirit of the Badaliya and directly influenced by Massignon, Christian de Chergé and Father Dall'Oglio ultimately gave their lives in the service of deepening the relationship between Muslims and Christians.

"At the heart of Muslim belief is the principal of Tawid, or oneness. This oneness, or unity, has been described as that which dominates the mind in Islam, while the heart is intrinsically linked to the concept of compassion. "My Mercy encompasses all things", (Qur'an 7:156). "My Mercy takes precedence over my anger" (hadith qudsi, a saying in which God speaks through the Prophet). Islam sees the sentiments of love and compassion, 'com-passio' - the ability to feel with the other, as expressions of the interconnected oneness of all human beings, reflecting the oneness and unity of God. "Whoever saves the life of one human being, it shall be as if he saved the whole of humankind" (Qur'an 5:32).

The great mystical writers of Islam, the Sufis, wrote constantly of love and compassion as essential to the spiritual path of the Muslim. They describe Love as the remedy of all ills and the alchemy of existence; love transforms poverty into riches, war into peace, ignorance into knowledge and hell into heaven. Preceding Rumi by almost a century. Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Arabi, (1165-1240) born in Andalusia in the south of Spain, is considered one of the greatest writers of the Islamic mystical tradition. Known as the poet of "the Cosmic Heart", he speaks to us of 'Discovering the deeper grounds of suffering in opening the heart' .... "Thus the person who understands the meaning of suffering increases his loving-compassion for the one who is in pain, then he or she will be rewarded .... this is because, (as the Arabic proverb expresses it) "every moist heart is a divine reward"." (Sheelah Treflé Hidden, London)

Let us offer our prayers for healing for all those who are suffering from the coronavirus and for an end to the spread of this virus. For all those who have died, and their grieving families and friends, may the spirit of Divine Mercy bring them consolation and peace of mind and heart.

Peace to you,

Quotation found at: wccm.org Love and Compassion in Islam, Sheelah Treflé Hidden, London

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