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Dear Muslim Sisters and Brothers,

 

On behalf of the priests and people of the Catholic parish of Saint Vincent de Paul in L1 we wish you a very happy Eid al-Fitr.

 

‘Îdukum mubârak

 

 

We have been accompanying you with our reflections and prayers during this holy month of Ramadan. We hope that you felt the presence of the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy, the Source of Peace, during the long hours of fasting and during the special prayers. We wish you a very joyous celebration of the Breaking of the Fast. May the Dispenser of all good (Al-Wahhâb) pour down upon you an abundance of blessings.

                                                             

                                                               Father Terry Madden

                                                             Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald

 

 

 

Accompanying Ramadan 28 Message at the end.

Posted on 19th April, 2023

Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue
Christians and Muslims
:

Promoters of Love and Friendship

Dear Muslim brothers and sisters,

The month of Ramadan is important for you, but also for your friends, neighbours and fellow believers of other religions, in particular Christians. Existing friendships are reinforced and others are built, paving the way for more peaceful, harmonious and joyful coexistence. This corresponds to the divine will for our communities, and indeed for all the members and communities of the one human family.

We are aware, dear friends, that peaceful and friendly coexistence faces many challenges and threats: extremism, radicalism, polemics, disputes, and religiously motivated violence. The threats are fueled by a culture of hate. We need, then, to find the most appropriate ways of countering and overcoming such a culture, enhancing instead, enhancing love and friendship, in particular between Muslims and Christians, due to the bonds that unite us. This is why we deemed it opportune to share some thoughts with you in this regard, hoping to receive yours as well.

All begins with our attitude towards each other, in particular when there are differences between us in religion, ethnicity, culture, language, or politics.

Differences can be perceived as a threat, but everyone has the right to his or her specific identity with its diverse components, yet without ignoring or forgetting what we have in common: “One is the community of all peoples, one their origin, for God made the whole human race to live over the face of the earth. One also is their final goal, God. His providence, His manifestations of goodness, His saving design extend to all men, until that time when the elect will be united in the Holy City, the city ablaze with the glory of God, where the nations will walk in His light” (Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, 28 October 1965, n. 1).

Negative attitudes and behaviours towards those who are different from us are unfortunately numerous: suspicion, fear, rivalry, discrimination, exclusion, persecution, polemics, insults, and backbiting, to name a few.

Social media platforms are common spaces for such harmful behaviours, perverting their role from being means for communication and friendship to being instruments for enmity and fighting. In this regard, Pope Francis has said: “Even as individuals maintain their comfortable consumerist isolation, they can choose a form of constant and febrile bonding that encourages remarkable hostility, insults, abuse, defamation and verbal violence destructive of others, and this with a lack of restraint that could not exist in physical contact without tearing us all apart. Social aggression has found unparalleled room for expansion through computers and mobile devices” (Fratelli Tutti, 3 October 2020, n. 44).

The opposites of the above-mentioned negative behaviours, are respect, goodness, charity, friendship, mutual care for all, forgiveness, cooperation for the common good, help to all those who are in any kind of need and care for the environment, in order to keep our “common home” a safe and pleasant place where we can live together in peace and joy.

We cannot prevent and counter the culture of hatred and, instead promote a culture of love and friendship, without a sound education for future generations in all the spaces where they are formed: in the family, at school, in places of worship, and on social media.

A world where justice, peace, fraternity and prosperity reign please the Almighty and brings joy, calling, therefore, our sincere and shared engagement.

Dear Muslim brothers and sisters, may you enjoy the Almighty’s abundant blessings during Ramadan and celebrate ‘Id al-Fitr in the joy resulting from fidelity and love for the Almighty and all persons you live with or meet.

From the Vatican, 3 March 2023

Miguel Ángel Cardinal Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ

Prefect

Msgr. Indunil Kodithuwakku Janakaratne Kankanamalage

Secretary

Jesus – ‘Isa 4

Bible

The public life of Jesus lasted only three years, but his teaching and his actions during these years fill the Gospels. Little of this is reflected in the Qur’an.

 

The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves is found in all four of the Gospels: Mt 14:13-21; Mk 6:30-44; Lk 9:10-17; Jn 6:1-15, with an important discourse of Jesus following the event (cf. Jn 6:26-58).

 

This anticipates the Last Supper of Jesus in which he instituted the Eucharist (Mt 26:17-19, 26-29; Mk 14:12-19, 22-25; Lk 22:7-20). John does not relate the institution of the Eucharist, but he does include the episode of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples (Jn 13:1-17) John follows this with important discourses of Jesus (Jn 13:31-35 and chapters 14-17).

 

The Last Supper leads up to the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus of which each evangelist gives an account (Mt 26:36 -28:20; Mk 14:32-16:20; Lk 22:39-24:51; Jn 18:1-21:25).

 

Qur’an

 

After a passage in surat al-mâ’ida  (Q 5:110-111) where God reminds Jesus that it is with God’s permission that he works miracles, there comes a request from the disciples:

When the disciples said, “Jesus, son of Mary, can your Lord send down a feast to us from heaven?” he said, “Beware of God if you are true believers.” They said, “We wish to eat from it; to have our hearts reassured; to know that you have told us the truth; and to be witnesses of it.” Jesus, son of Mary, said, “Lord, send down to us a feast from heaven so that we can have a festival – the first and last of us – and a sign from You. Provide for us: You are the best provider.” God said, “I will send it down to you, but anyone who disbelieves after this will be punished with a punishment that I will not inflict on anyone else in the world” (Q 5:112-113).

Michel Cuypers, who has made a full length study of surat al-mâ’ida, suggests putting this passage in relationship with the discourse of Jesus after the multiplication of the loaves (John 6:20-58) in which Jesus declares himself to be ‘the bread of life’. This discourse ends with the words: “anyone who eats this bread will live for ever” (Jn 6:58). It is to be noted that in the qur’anic text the disciples are asking for something to reassure their hearts; so it could be said that they are seeking spiritual rather than material food. This could be understood as the Eucharist. It is not surprising that there is nothing in the Qur’an about the actual institution of the Eucharist since, as has been noted before, the category of sacrament is absent from the Qur’an.

 

On the Passion of Jesus there is the following passage:

[The Jews] said, “We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of God.” (They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, though it was made to appear like that to them; those that disagreed about him are full of doubt, with no knowledge to follow, only supposition: they certainly did not kill him – No! God raised him up to Himself. God is almighty and wise.) (Q 4:157-158).

The phrase shubbiha la-hum, translated here “it was made to appear like that to them” has received many interpretations. The most common is that someone was changed into the likeness of Jesus and was crucified in his place. What is important for Muslims is that Jesus did not die on the cross – this explains the opposition to the figure of the cross and in particular to the crucifix with a corpus on the cross – but God raised him up to himself (see also the verse: “God said, ‘Jesus, I will take you back and raise you up to Me’” (Q 3:55). Muslims believe that Jesus will return at the end of time to prepare the way for a reign of justice and peace.

Fr Robert Caspar, a Missionary of Africa who was an expert on Islam with much experience in relations with Muslims, especially in Tunisia, gave this opinion:

“The qur’anic or Christian Jesus is seldom a meeting ground or the basis for a useful dialogue between Christians and Muslims, even though it seems at first an excellent common ground. There is a great risk of coming up against a brick wall of positions which are clearly defined and irreconcilable, and thus declining into polemic” (Islamic Theology, II Doctrines, p.128).

To be able to express fundamental differences without the exchange developing into a shouting match, an atmosphere of friendship needs to be solidly established.

 

 

 

 

Accompanying Ramadan 26 Jesus 3

Posted on 17th April, 2023

Jesus – ‘Isa (3)

Bible

The identity of Jesus as the Son of God is witnessed in the Gospels more by what Jesus does than by what he says about himself. The Gospel of Mark is characterized by what is known as ‘the messianic secret’: the demons recognize who Jesus is, but he tells them to be silent. After the Transfiguration, when Jesus is shown in glory and a voice from heaven declares: “This is my Son, the beloved. Listen to him” Jesus warns the disciples “to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mk 9:9).

In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) “the Son” used for Jesus is found only three times (Mt 11.27 and the parallel texts; Mt 24:36; Mt 28:19).

In the Gospel of John Jesus speaks of his Sonship 20 times; some examples:

God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life (Jn 3:16).

I tell you most solemnly, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees the Father doing: and whatever the Father does the Son does too. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does himself, and he will show him even greater things than these, works that will astonish you. Thus, as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses; for the Father judges no one; he has entrusted all judgement to the Son, so that all my honour the Son as they honour the Father.

                                                                                 (Jn 5:19-23)

See also the Letter of Paul to the Philippians 2:6-11, and the Letter to the Colossians 1:15-20.

 

Qur’an

Belief in the Incarnation, that the Son of God has become man, is the main difference between Christianity and Islam. All the other differences flow from this source. It is not surprising, then, that there should be numerous passages in the Qur’an which deny that Jesus is the Son of God.

[This is] a statement of the Truth about which they are in doubt: it would not befit God to have a child. He is far above that: when He decrees something, He says only ‘Be’ and it is. “God is my Lord and your Lord, so serve Him: that is a straight path.” But factions have differed among themselves (Q 19:34-37).

Some observations: God is not like the male and female divinities of the pantheon who have sexual relations to beget children. God is obviously above this. But this is not how Christians understand the generation of the Son of God. A little further in the same sura it says:

They [the Christians] attribute offspring to the Lord of Mercy. It does not befit the Lord of Mercy [to have offspring] (Q 19:91-92).

Yet there is a mysterious verse addressed elsewhere to Muhammad:

Say [Prophet], If the Lord of Mercy [truly] had a son, I would be the first to worship him (Q 43:81 - this translation is given in note by Abdel Haleem).

One could say Allâhu akbar, ‘God is greater’ [than anything we could imagine]. John affirms that “God is love” (First Letter of John 4:8) and he continues:

God’s love for us was revealed when god sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him (1 Jn 4:9).

It is nevertheless salutary for Christians to remark in surat Maryam (Q 19) the reference to the ‘doubt’ of Christians and that they form ‘factions’. The division among Christians is in fact a scandal.  

People of the Book, do not go to excess in your religion, and do not say anything about God except the truth: the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was nothing more than a messenger of God, His Word directed to Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers and do not speak of a ‘Trinity’ – stop [this], that is better for you – God is only one God, He is far above having a son, everything in the heavens on earth belongs to Him and He is the best one to trust.

                                                                          (Q 4:171)

Again some observations: Christians (together with Jews) are called ‘People of the Book’; this is not really appropriate for Christians who are followers of the person of Jesus Christ rather than adherent to a text.

The Trinity is a real stumbling block for Muslims, but it is perhaps up to Christians to show that belief in the Trinity does not prevent them from being true monotheists.

       

 

 

 

 

Accompanying Ramadan 25 Jesus 2

Posted on 16th April, 2023

Jesus – ‘Isa (2)

Bible

In the Gospel of Luke we find the following accounts:

        2:1-29 – the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and the visit of the shepherds.

        2:21 – the circumcision of Jesus and his naming.

        2:22-28 – the presentation of Jesus in the Temple; the presence of

                       Simeon and Anna.

        2:39-40 – the hidden life of Jesus at Nazareth.

        2:41-52 – the finding of the young Jesus in the Temple.

In the Gospel of Matthew the following accounts are given:

        2:1-12 – the visit of the Magi (Wise Men) to Bethlehem.

        2:13-18 – The flight into Egypt; the massacre of the innocents

        2:18-22 – The return to Nazareth.  

 

Qur’an

The following account is given of the birth of Jesus:

She [Mary] withdrew to a distant place and, when the pangs of birth drove her to [cling to] the trunk of a palm tree, she exclaimed, “I wish I had been dead and forgotten long before all this!” but a voice cried to her from below, “Do not worry, your Lord had provided a, stream at your feet and, if you shake the trunk of the palm tree towards you, it will deliver fresh ripe dates for you, eat drink, be glad, and say to anyone you may see: “I have vowed to the Lord of Mercy to abstain from conversation, and I will not talk to anyone today.” (Q 19:22-26)

The absence of history and geography is a feature of the Qur’an, in contrast to Luke who, at the beginning of chapter two, gives historical and geographical details. There is no mention of a manger in the Qur’an and the shepherds do not appear. There is a palm tree giving fruit, ripe dates, which a Muslim doctor and popular spiritual writer affirmed were what a woman just having given birth exactly needed. (A palm that bends down to give fruit to Mary figures in the apocalyptic gospel of pseudo-Matthew [ch. 20], but this in the context of the flight into Egypt).

 

 

 

The sura continues with what happens after the birth of Jesus:

        She [Mary] went back to her people carrying the child,

This would normally be the task of the father but in the case of Jesus there is no father.

And they said, Mary! You have done something terrible! Sister of Aaron! Your father was not a bad man; your mother was not unchaste!

With regard to the title ‘Sister of Aaron’, some scholars think that there may be blending between Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary the sister of Moses and Aaron. But since it is mentioned that Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, was of priestly descent, Mary too would be descended from Aaron, and so could be called ‘sister of Aaron’.

She pointed at him [the child]. They said, “How can we converse with an infant?

Yusuf Ali translates “to one who is a child in the cradle” (closer to the Arabic).

The child has already performed this miracle from the foot of the palm.

[But] he said, “I am a servant of Go46).d. He has granted me the Scripture; made be blessed wherever I be” (Q 19:27-32). 

 

During the Annunciation, according to sura 3, the angels had said to Mary:

        He will speak to people in his infancy and in his adulthood (Q 3:46).

They had announced to her before:

Mary, God gives you news of a Word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, who will be held in honour in this world and he next, who will become one of those brought near to God.

                                                                (Q 3:45)

Jesus has the name ‘Word from God’, not Word of God, not the Logos that John speaks of (cf. the prologue of John’s gospel; Jn 1:1-14).  It is more likely a reference to the ‘creative word’ of God: as the angels say to Mary after her question as to how she could have a son when no man has touched her:

“This is how God creates what He will: when He has ordained something, He only says ‘Be’ and it is” (Q 3:47).

There is no qur’anic equivalent of Mary’s Fiat, of which there is no need.

On the name ‘Messiah’ see Parinder, Jesus in the Qur’an, pp.30-34.

 

Accompanying Ramadan 24 Still with Mary

Posted on 15th April, 2023

Mary – Maryam 3

Bible

 

The Annunciation, the visitation of the angel Gabriel to Mary, is told by Luke in his Gospel (Lk 1:26-38). The name of Mary is mentioned last in the account, after that of the messenger, Gabriel, that of the place where the event takes place, Nazareth, and that of the man to whom Mary is betrothed, Joseph. Mary is described as “a young girl” (parthenos in Greek, often translated ‘virgin’). The angel addresses her: “Rejoice, so highly favoured, the Lord is with you.” Mary is disturbed by this greeting. The angel tells her that she is to bear a son whom she must name Jesus, who will “be great and will be called the Son of the Most High”, and who will be given “the throne of his ancestor David”. After being reassured by the angel about how this will happen, through the action of the Holy Spirit, Mary consents to this mission, saying: “I am the handmaid of the Lord… let what you have said be done to me.”

 

Qur’an

 

The Qur’an recounts the Annunciation in two places:

Mention in the Scripture the story of Mary… We sent Our Spirit to appear before her in the form of a normal human. She said, “I seek the Lord of Mercy’s protection against you: if you have any fear of Him [do not approach]!” but he said, “I am but a Messenger from your Lord, [come] to announce to you the gift of a pure son.” She said, ”How can I have a son when no man has touched me? I have not been unchaste,” and he said, “This is what your Lord said: ‘It is easy for Me – We shall make him a sign to all people, a blessing from Us.” And so it was ordained: she conceived him (Q 19:16-22).

Some comments on this passage:

‘Our Spirit’ (rûḥa-nâ) is translated ‘Our angel’ by Yusuf Ali. This angel appears to Mary as a young man, so she is naturally disturbed. She has recourse to God’s protection; the usual way of doing this in Arabic is to say: a’ûḏu bi-Llâhi – I seek refuge in God. It is noticeable that Mary invokes the protection of the Lord of Mercy (al-Raḥmân). This Name of God is used frequently in sura 19 which is a Meccan sura belonging to the period of the Qur’an in which there is much reference to previous Scriptures.

The angel says he has come ‘to announce to you the gift of a pure son’ (li-ahaba la-ki ghulâmanzakiyyanliterally ‘that I give to you a pure boy’).

This boy is to be ‘a sign’ from God, and ‘a blessing’ (raḥmatan minnâ –literally, a mercy from Us).

        We made the son of Mary and his mother a sign (Q 23:50).

Mary and Jesus form a single sign together because they are proof of God’s power to bring forth a child from a virgin.

The second description of the Annunciation contains some differences:

The angels said to Mary: “Mary, God has chosen you and made you pure: He has truly chosen you above all women. Mary, be devout to your Lord, prostrate yourself in worship, bow down with those who pray.” This is an account of things beyond your knowledge that We reveal to you [Muhammad]: you were not present among them when they cast lots to see which of them should take charge of Mary… The angels said, “Mary, God gives you news of a Word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, who will be held in honour in this world and the next, who will be one of those brought near to God. He will speak to people in his infancy and in his adulthood. He will be one of the righteous.” She said, “My Lord, how can I have a son when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “This is how God creates what He will: when He has ordained something, He only says ‘Be’ and it is (Q 3:2-47).

It is good to notice some of the special features of this passage:

First, the text says ‘angels’, in the plural, like the messengers who came to Abraham to say that his wife would bear him a son.

Then, there is the description of Mary as chosen by God, pure and devout. She has been chosen by God “above all women”. This causes difficulty for some Muslims, because some see Khadija, the first wife of Muhammad, as the highest ranking woman; others give this position to Fatima, daughter of Muhammad and mother of his two grandsons, Hasan and Husayn. Accordingly, some Muslims interpret this passage as meaning that Mary was chosen above all the women of her time.

It can be noticed that the consent of Mary is not required. She has no fiat to give. God’s will is necessarily done.

 

 

Accompanying Ramadan 22 Back to Mary

Posted on 14th April, 2023

Mary – Maryam  2

 

Bible

 

There is nothing in the gospels about the upbringing of Mary. The Church relies on the apocryphal Book of James (the Protoevangelium) for its information, even for the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary which the Latin Church celebrates on 21 November.

 

According to this book, Anna had promised to God the child she would bear.

When Mary reached the age of two years, Joachim wanted to offer her to the Temple, but Anna said “let us wait until the third year, that the child may not long after her father or mother.” Joachim agreed. So when Mary was three, her parents took her to the Temple. The priest received her, kissed her and blessed her, and “he made her sit upon the third step of the altar. And the Lord put grace upon her and she danced with her feet and all the house of Israel loved her.” Her parents marvelled, praising God that the child had not turned back. “And Mary was in the temple of the Lord as a dove that is nurtured: and she received food from the hand of an angel.”

 

So Mary is brought up in the Temple until she was twelve, the age of puberty. Then the High Priest whose name according to the Protoevangelium was Zacharias had to decide what to do with her. An angel appeared to him, telling him to assemble widowers, each one bringing a rod,” and to whomsoever the Lord shall show a sign, his wife shall she be.”  The widowers brought their rods, gave them to the High Priest who, after having prayed, gave them back. “Joseph received the last rod: and lo, a dove came forth from the rod and flew upon the head of Joseph.” So Joseph was designated as the husband of Mary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Qur’an

Mention in the Scripture the story of Mary. She withdrew from her family to a place east and secluded herself away (Q 19:16-17).

Yusuf Ali comments:

“To a private eastern chamber, perhaps in the Temple. She [Mary] went into privacy, from her people and from people in general. For prayer and devotion.”

Her Lord graciously accepted her and made her grow in goodness, and entrusted her to the charge of Zacharias.

Whenever Zachariah went in to see her in her sanctuary, he found her supplied with provisions. He said, “Mary, how is it you have these provisions?” and she said, “they are from God: God provides limitlessly for whoever He will” (Q 3:37).

Zacharias has already been mentioned in this sura as the future father of John the Baptist (Yahya). Since Islam has no priesthood, there is no role for Zachary, the High Priest, to play. The two persons are conflated into one.

There is no mention either of Joseph, though we find this in the Qur’an:

You [Muhammad] were not present among them when they cast lots to see which of them should take charge of Mary, you were not present with them when they argued [about her] (Q 3:44).

This silence about Joseph is probably to preserve Mary intact from any suspicion of having sexual relations.

The Qur’an states:

Mary, daughter of ‘Imran. She guarded her chastity, so we breathed into her from Our Spirit. She accepted the truth of her Lord’s words and Scriptures: she was truly devout (Q 66:12).

 

Jesus – ‘Isâ 1

Bible

 

To get to know Jesus, or at least to know about Jesus, one would have to read the whole of the New Testament, the Gospels of course, but also the other writings of the New Testament which bear witness to what the first Christian communities believed.

 

The first writings of Paul, the First Letter and the Second Letter to the community in Thessalonika, are dated to 50-52 CE. They are followed by the two letters to the Christians in Corinth (circa 57 CE).

This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.” In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.”

                                                               (1 Corinthians 11:23-25)

It is to be noted that Paul respects tradition; he hands on what he has received. Paul did not invent Christianity.

 

The four gospels are part of oral tradition that was later written down. Each of the four main authors, whom we call Evangelists, has his own point of view.

Mark (before 70 CE):

  1. Prelude: Preaching of John the Baptist; Baptism of Jesus;

    Temptation.

  1. Ministry of Jesus in Galilee.
  2. Journeys outside Galilee.
  3. The Jerusalem ministry.
  4. Passion of Jesus and his Resurrection.

The Gospel of Mark was probably originally addressed to Christians in Rome. It focuses on the Kingdom of God.

 

 

Luke (between 80 and 85 CE)

  1. Birth and Hidden Life of John the Baptist and of Jesus
  2. Prelude to the Public Ministry of Jesus
  3. Ministry of Jesus in Galilee
  4. The Journey to Jerusalem
  5. Ministry of Jesus in Jerusalem
  6. Passion
  7. Resurrection of Jesus and After

The Gospel of Luke was probably written in Antioch (Syria) for non-Jewish Christians. The author emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit; he stresses the love of Jesus for sinners; he also gives importance to the role of women. He is described by Dante as scriba mansuetudinis Christi, “the faithful recorder of Christ’s lovingkindness.”

 

Matthew (between 80 and 90 CE)

  1. Birth and Infancy of Jesus
  2. The Kingdom of God Proclaimed
  3. The Kingdom of God is Preached (i.e. taught)
  4. The Mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven
  5. The Church, First-Fruits of the Kingdom of Heaven
  6. The Approaching Advent of the Kingdom of Heaven
  7. Passion and Resurrection

The Gospel of Matthew was intended for Jewish converts to the Christian faith; he quotes often from the previous Scriptures to show that these are fulfilled in Jesus.

 

John (end of 1st Century CE)

  1. Prologue
  2. First Week of the Ministry of Jesus. He is revealed as Messiah.
  3. First Passover
  4. Sabbath of the paralytic
  5. The Passover of the Bread of Life.
  6. The Feast of Tabernacles
  7. The Feast of Dedication
  8. The Week of the Passion
  9. Resurrection and Week of apparitions

 

The Gospel of John was probably written for a special community of disciples, in a Jewish-Christian environment. These disciples seem to have been influenced by later currents in Judaism. The Gospel is more reflective, bringing out the meaning of the events of the life of Jesus. It emphasizes the importance of the Incarnation, the Word made flesh.

 

Qur’an

 

The name for Jesus in the Qur’an is ‘Isâ. “The Qur’an gives a greater number of honourable titles to Jesus than to any other figure of the past”

(G. Parinder, Jesus in the Qur’an p.16). Jesus is often referred to in the Qur’an as “Son of Mary”. This is, for Christians, both negative and positive: negative in that it avoids declaring Jesus to be the Son of God; positive in that it recognizes the virginal birth of Jesus: Jesus is the “son of Mary”, he has no earthly father.

 

A Muslim writes that Jesus “has provided both a bridge between Christian and Muslim faith and piety, and a great theological barrier between the Christian church and the Muslim ummah… for Muslim piety, Jesus is a model of true Islam, or total submission to God. He lived in God’s presence, free from all attachments to this world and its vain pleasures. He is a source of hope and solace for the poor and oppressed, and a stern reproach for the rich and greedy oppressors. For the Sufis, the ‘friends of God’, he is an example of true piety and trust in God, and through his gracious miracles he embodies for all faithful Muslims God’s gift of life and healing.”

[Mahmoud Ayoub, in Irfan A, Omar (ed.) A Muslim View of Christianity. Essays on Dialogue by Mahmoud Ayoub, p.117].

 

Another Muslim writes: “Jesus, as a messenger of God, is an integral part of Islamic theology, literature, culture and civilization… Muslims see no incongruity between Jesus and the mosque since the prophet Muhammad and Jesus are considered spiritual brothers. This clearly indicates that Muslims have honored Jesus as a part of their faith and culture. Perhaps for this reason many adherents of Islamic faith name their children ‘Isa, the Qur’anic name for Jesus.”

(Zeki Saritoprak, Islam’s Jesus, p.xiii)

       

       

 

 

 

 

Mary – Maryam  1

 

Bible

 

The mysteries of Jesus in which Mary is involved.

Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38)

Mary and Joseph (Mt 1:18-25)         

Visitation (Lk 1:39-76)

Birth of Jesus (Lk 2:1-20)

Circumcision (Lk 2:21)

Presentation of Jesus (Lk 2:22-38)

Visit of Magi (Mt 2:1-12)

Flight into Egypt (Mt 2:13-18)

Return to Nazareth (Mt 19-22)

Boyhood of Jesus (Lk 2:29-52)

Cana (Jn 2:1-12)

True kin of Jesus (Mt 12:46-50; Mk 3:31-35; Lk 8:19-21)

Women on way to Calvary (Lk 23:27-31)

Mary at the Cross (Jn 19:25-27)

Waiting for the Spirit (Acts 1:12-14)

 

Adopted children of God (Galatians 4:3-5)

 

Qur’an

 

A sura of the Qur’an bears the name of Maryam.

This is sura 19.

The Annunciation is recounted (vv.14-22) and then the virgin birth of Jesus (vv.22-33) which differs from the account in the Gospel of Luke. This concludes with a passage about Jesus stating “it would not befit God to have a child” (v.34). This is why in the Qur’an Jesus is most frequently referred to as “Jesus son of Mary” (see Accompanying Ramadan pp.11. 26-27).

 

 

But further information about Mary is given in sura 3 (sûrat âl-imrân)

“Imran is a Biblical figure, being the equivalent of Amram, grandson of Levi and father of Miriam, Aaron and Moses (see Exodus 6:16-20; Numbers 20:59). The ‘Imran of Q 3 is not, however, this person, but the husband of the mother of Mary.

Yusuf Ali explains this: “Now [from Q 3:35 onwards] we have the story of Jesus. As a prelude we have the birth of Mary and the parallel story of John the Baptist, Yahya the son of Zakariya. Yahya’s mother Elizabeth was a cousin of Mary (Lk 1:36)… Elizabeth was of the daughters of Aaron (Lk 1:5) of a priestly family which went back to Aaron the brother of Moses and son of Imran…By tradition Mary’s mother was called Hannah.”

 

The apocryphal Book of James (known also as the Protoevangelium) gives the name of Anna, but calls her husband Joachim. It explains that Joachim was rich, but he was also devout and wished to offer some of his riches for the benefit of the people. Since he had not produced an issue, since he did not have any children, his gifts were refused. So, without saying anything to his wife, he went off into the wilderness to fast for forty days. Anna prayed and lamented: her (temporary) widowhood and her childlessness. She prayed therefor, to have a child, which she promised to dedicate to the Lord.

Imran’s wife said, “Lord, I have dedicated what is growing in my womb entirely to you; so accept this from me. You are the One who hears and knows all,” but when she gave birth, she said, “My Lord! I have given birth to a girl” – God knew best what she had given birth to: the male is not like the female – “I name her Mary and I commend her and her offspring to Your protection from the rejected Satan” (Q 3:35-36).

The mother thinks that only a male child will be acceptable to the Lord, but she is reassured that her daughter will be equally acceptable. So she prays that Mary, and the child Jesus that Mary will eventually bear, will be preserved from the touch of Satan. Consequently Mary and Jesus remained sinless.

 

       

John the Baptist – Yahyâ

 

Bible

 

As the Precursor (forerunner) of Jesus, John the Baptist is an important figure in the New Testament. He is mentioned in all four Gospels.

The Gospel of Mark starts with the preaching of John the Baptist and with the baptism of Jesus as a prelude to the public ministry of Jesus (Mk 1:1-13).

Luke first recounts how the birth of John was announced:

In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah… and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron (Lk 1:5)

So Elizabeth too was of a priestly family.

Both were worthy in the sight of God and scrupulously observed all the commandments and observances of the Lord. But they were childless: Elizabeth was barren and they were both getting on in years (Lk 1:6-7).

Zechariah is fulfilling his duties in the Temple when, surprising and frightening him, an angel appears to him. But the angel said to him:    

“Zechariah, do not be afraid, your prayer has been heard” [this prayer is not mentioned explicitly in the Gospel but is supposed] “Your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son and you must name him John” (Lk 1:13).

The particular nature of this son is then given more fully:

He will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he must drink no wine, no strong drink. Even from his mother’s womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit… With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children and the disobedient back to the wisdom that the virtuous have, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him.” (Lk 1:14-17).

 

The evangelist then recounts the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus. The angel informs Mary that “her kinswoman Elizabeth” is six months pregnant. So Mary visits Elizabeth and greets her:

Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:41).

The child is born and on the eighth day he is to be circumcised and named:

        They [the neighbours and relations of Zechariah and Elizabeth] were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up:

“No”, she said, “he is to be called John.” They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name, and made signs to his father to find out what name he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing –tablet and wrote ‘His name is John’. And they were all astonished (Lk 60-63).

People wondered what this child would become. Luke states:

And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him… Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel (Lk 1:66, 80).

 

Matthew, Mark and Luke give an account of the preaching of John the Baptist (Mt 3:1-12; Mk 1:1-8; Lk 3:1-18), and also of the baptism of Jesus (Mt 3:13-17; Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21-22).  The evangelist John also refers to the witness of John who, when asked to describe his mission, says:

        “I am, as Isaiah prophesied, ‘a voice that cries in the wilderness: make

        a straight way for the Lord’. “ (Jn 1:23).

The Baptist points out Jesus to some of his disciples as the one who is to come (Jn 1:29-36; 3:22-36).

 

The people held that John was a prophet (cf. Mt 21:26). He was imprisoned by Herod and put to death by him (Mt14:3-12). From prison he sends messengers to Jesus, and Jesus commends him (Lk 7:18-30):

“I tell you, of all the children born of women, there is no greater than John, yet he least in the kingdom of God is greater than he is” (Lk 7:28).

 

 

 

 

 

Qur’an

John (Yahyâ ) is mentioned among the righteous, together with Zakariyyâ, Jesus and Elijah, in the list of those whom God has guided (Q 6:85).

 

Zakariyyâ prays for a son:

“Lord, from Your grace grant me virtuous offspring: You hear every               prayer.”  (Q3:38)

A son is promised. The angel says to him:

“Zakariyyâ, We bring you good news of a son whose name will be John = We have chosen this name for no one before him (Q 19:7)

In Hebrew the name Johanan means ‘The Lord has been gracious’. The Arabic form Yahyâ suggests ‘life’.

 

The nature of this prophet is indicated:

        He will be noble and chaste, a prophet, one of the righteous (Q 3:39)

[We said] “John, hold on to the Scripture firmly.” While he was still a boy, We granted him wisdom, tenderness from us and purity. He was devout, kind to his parents, not domineering or rebellious. Peace on him the day he was born, on the day of his death, and on the day he is raised to life again.

                                                                               (Q 19:12-15)

Yusuf Ali comments: “An unbelieving world had either corrupted or neglected it [God’s revelation], and Yahya (John the Baptist) was to prepare the way for Jesus, who was coming to renew and re-interpret it.”  We could note that the name ‘Baptist’ is not used in the Qur’an; there is no mention of the baptism that John was practising, probably because this was in the nature of a pre-sacrament, and Islam does not include sacraments

 

The same translator/commentator adds: “Ḥukm, translated Wisdom, implies something more than Wisdom; it is the Wisdom or Judgment that is entitled to judge and command, as in the matter of denouncing sin.” Yet the witness of John before Herod, a witness leading to death by beheading (martyrdom) is not mentioned in the Qur’an.

 

 

 

       

 

INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE

The importance of Interreligious Dialogue

“Interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world, and so it is a duty for Christians as well as other religious communities” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium no.250)

This dialogue is part of the mission of the Church, together with the worship of God through prayer and liturgy, the witness of a Christian way of life, service to fellow human beings, proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel and instructing people in the faith.

What is dialogue?

Dialogue means “all positive and constructive interreligious relations with individuals and communities of other faiths which are directed at mutual understanding and enrichment, in obedience to truth and respect for freedom” (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Dialogue and Proclamation no.9)

What is the aim of this dialogue?

The aim is threefold:

Imam Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi and Pope Francis meet.

 -   To live in peace and harmony with people of different religious traditions;

-    To work together for the benefit of all our brothers and sisters;

-    To help one another to respond sincerely and generously to God’s will for us.

To whom is this dialogue directed?

This dialogue “should be potentially universal, that is, all-embracing and capable of including all” (Pope Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam, no.79).

Missionaries of Africa

“Our Society was founded in 1868 by Cardinal Lavigerie, Archbishop of Algiers. It is a Missionary Institute of Priests and Brothers living in community. Its aim is to proclaim the Gospel to the peoples of the African world. Because of its origins the Society has always had a particular interest in Muslims” (Constitutions art.1).

In Liverpool

Here in St. Vincent’s, we see our participation in interreligious dialogue as:

  • Establishing contact with local Muslim communities and communities of other faiths.
  • Cooperating with other bodies engaged in interreligious relations.
  • Participating in the work of interreligious committees (Fr Michael and Fr Terry are members of the Archdiocesan committee for Ecumenism, which covers also interreligious relations; Fr Michael attends the meetings of Faith Leaders).