November 21, 2021.

Dear Friends,

Due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic we will gather together remotely for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday November 21, 2021 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm. 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, especially in the Holy Land, an end to the pandemic, and recovery of health for the world.

Today is the final day in the Liturgical Calendar year of the Catholic Church, called the Solemnity of "Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe." At his trial in the Gospel according to John, Jesus responds to the questions posed by Pontius Pilate, the 5th governor of the Roman province of Judea from approximately 26 to 36 or 37 AD: "My kingdom does not belong to this world ..." Thus, we are invited to ponder on the designation of Christ as "King, King of the Universe." As the well-known Franciscan ecumenical teacher, Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM points out, "as far as we know right now our universe has existed for 14.6 billion years". Jesus' mission 2000 years ago was to reveal the mystery of God "in the universe, in creation, in every creature, in everything that exists on this planet and all planets ... from beginning to end" that we Christians call the Christ, King of the Universe. The universe is still expanding, "Christ still unfolding" as Fr. Rohr so beautifully explains.

Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent when we prepare for the Incarnation, the birth into our lives of "the eternal Christ mystery who came as a person that we call Jesus." As persons, we encounter the person Jesus, a manifestation of the Divine Love that fashioned the Universe. In that experience we discover who we are. This is a timeless journey that continues to unfold within us and around us.

In our Muslim and Christian faith sharing gatherings, inspired by the original Badaliya established by Louis Massignon and Mary Kahil in the early 20th century, we pray the Fatiha, in the original Arabic language, that is the first Surah found in the Qur'an. The second verse, Al-Hamdulil-Lahi Rabbi-l-'aalamiin transliterated states: "Praise be to God, Lord of the Universe." Praise is both recognizing that only God is worthy of being honored in this way as well as giving thanks to the Creator of all that exists. Aalamiin is the plural of alam which means Universe. According to a commentary by Ibn Kathîr the use of the plural in this verse encompasses "all that God has created in this world and in the heavens. God is the master of all the existing worlds that God has created, therefore God assures their survival and development; stones as they fall, plants in their growth, the star in its orbit, every element of creation progresses according to rules of incredible precision. Everything sends us back with evidence of one unique Creator."

"The greater and more complete our knowledge of the One we praise, the more sincere the one who gives praise," affirms Imam Hassan al-Bannã. "From this it is incumbent upon Muslims to make a considerable effort to discover the secrets that are hidden in the universe in order to know the forces in it and the admirable things enclosed in it. Thus, they will truly find awareness of the grandeur of the Creator. Their homage to God and their praise will be sincere out of an authentic understanding, a profound feeling in the heart, from a rational estimation, and will not only be about facts pronounced by imitation or of an inherited cult. From there comes the greatest homage and praise, it is the praise that God, the Most glorious makes of Himself. The Prophet would invoke God by saying," Glory to You. We are unable to praise You by understanding Your just value. You are That which You Yourself praised."

The Mystery of the King of the Universe that Christians celebrate today is enhanced by our Muslim commentaries that not only speak of the grandeur of the Creator but invite us to become seekers of knowledge, expanding our world-view and perspective of the universe in the wonderful integration of science and religion that we share. In these reflections are a clarion call to do all we can to save our warming planet and the vast diversity of life on it. May our curiosity be life-giving and our prayers for all who seek the freedom we have to be curious, be answered.

Blessed Thanksgiving and Peace to you and yours,

Rohr, "Sick, and you Cared for Me" in Give Us This Day, November 2021, p. 225.
My translations of Ibn Kathîr, Tafsir, (commentary) vol.1.p.24 and Hassan al-Bannã. Maqâsid al-Qur'an al Karîm , p. 44 in Hani Ramadan, Commentairs de la sourate Al-Fâtiha, Éditions Tawhid, Lyon, France. p. 25-26.)

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