Stepping Beyond – A Journey of Peace Among Religions
Begin by paying attention to your breathing, without changing the rhythm . . . Notice your breathing in . . . and your breathing out . . . the rhythm . . . the depth . . . the feel of the air entering and leaving your mouth or nose . . . take three deeper breaths . . .
Prepare yourself now to hear our reading from the Gospel of Luke...
Lk 2,8-14 NRSV
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David a saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!"
As we continue our journey through Advent, Fratelli Tutti continues to offer us much wisdom and perhaps challenges. In listening to this beautiful reading, we recall that on Christmas night the angels proclaimed a message of good news to the shepherds and of peace to all those of good will. What is striking about this reading is that this message was proclaimed to all, not only to those of a particular religion. God chose the wise men from the East to bring the news to Jerusalem that the King of the Jews was born. Have you ever considered what the world would be like if all the religions everywhere were to come together and work for the recognition of every person’s dignity? What a huge impact we would have!
Pope Francis tells us that ultimately, the real foundation that we are all brothers and sisters lies in our belief that we are all children of the same Father. “A journey of peace is possible between religions. Its point of departure must be God’s way of seeing things. God does not see with his eyes, God sees with his heart, and God’s love is the same for everyone, regardless of religion. Even if they are atheists, his love is the same”. (FT281).
It follows “that we believers need to find occasions to speak with one another and to act together for the common good and the promotion of the poor.” (FT282). During these weeks of Advent can we find these occasions in our daily lives?
This has nothing to do with watering down or concealing our deepest convictions when we encounter others who think differently than ourselves. We can only reach out to others when we are sure of our identity and our beliefs.
Pope Francis tells us that “the Church esteems the ways in which God works in other religions, and rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for their manner of life and conduct, their precepts and doctrines. (FT277). Our lives often bring us in contact with others of different religions. Yet we Christains are very much aware that “if the music of the Gospel ceases to resonate in our very being, we will lose the joy born of compassion, the tender love born of trust, the capacity for reconciliation that has its source in our knowledge that we have been forgiven and sent forth” (FT277).
Let us not lose the music of the Gospel as we prepare for Christmas. If you try to reach out, step beyond, offer an encounter of fraternity; friendship; companionship this Christmas season, you might be surprised at how much we all have in common! Let us remember the words of the angel “Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people”.
Parla con Dio
Take a moment to reflect on your own response to people of other religions, or those who think differently to you. How have you been challenged or stirred by today’s session?
“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people”. Are you aware of the good news of great joy that you have been given to carry and share with others? You might like to ask God for a renewed sense of this joy in your life today...
How might you be called to share the “music of the Gospel” this Christmas and beyond? In these closing moments, you might like to ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to a new sense of calling in this way...
An Ecumenical Christian Prayer
O God, Trinity of love,
from the profound communion of your divine life,
pour out upon us a torrent of fraternal love.
Grant us the love reflected in the actions of Jesus,
in his family of Nazareth,
and in the early Christian community.
Grant that we Christians may live the Gospel,
discovering Christ in each human being,
recognizing him crucified
in the sufferings of the abandoned
and forgotten of our world,
and risen in each brother or sister
who makes a new start.
Come, Holy Spirit, show us your beauty,
reflected in all the peoples of the earth,
so that we may discover anew
that all are important and all are necessary,
different faces of the one humanity
that God so loves. Amen.
Given in Assisi, at the tomb of Saint Francis, on 3 October, Vigil of the Feast of the Saint, in the year 2020.
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