Christmas in art: 12-13-11
Hitting highs and Lowe's: 12-15-11

Faiths building together: 12-14-11


The good interfaith work that began in 2007 at Kansas City's branch of Habitat for Humanity is continuing today with the construction of the third "House That Abraham Builds."

House-Abe-4It's a Christian-Jewish-Muslim joint project. The latest house is taking shape on Bellefontaine near 25th and should be complete before spring.

I stopped by the site the other day and had a conversation with Father Jason Lewis, rector of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church, (it's in Loch Lloyd on the south edge of the KC metro area) who was accompanied by a number of his parishioners pounding nails and laying down roofing.

House-Abe-3I asked him why his congregation is taking part in this work. As hammers pounded through our words, he said:

"I think it's important for all three faiths to come together to build something, to act in compassion with one another, as opposed to emphasizing what separates us but to emphasize what unifies us.

"We all share a common social justice commitment, that God benefits the poor, has a preference for the poor, so why not emphasize that?"

House-Abe-5I asked him whether this work thus far has resulted in any long-term friendships or connections between people of different faiths.

"You know," he said, "I'm hoping. What I'm really looking forward to are some shared worship experiences." Indeed, one of the lessons about interfaith dialogue and connections is that they take time and a long-term commitment. It's helpful to work together on projects such as a Habitat house, but more is required if Muslims, Jews and Christians are to get to know each other in deep ways.

If you want more details about how this project came about and who's involved, The Catholic Key, Kansas City's diocesan newspaper, did this article about this project earlier this year when ground was broken.

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Speaking of faiths connecting in various ways, the Self-Realization Fellowship is promoting a Christmas message called "Let Us Rejoice" by SRF's late founder, Paramahansa Yogananda.

This is an excerpt is from The Second Coming of Christ by him.

(Copyright © 2004, Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles. Reprinted with permission.)

Let us make this Christmas a real celebration of the birth of the holy child by striving to realize the consciousness which he attained.

Let us make this celebration an uplifting and spiritual experience.

Let us not for a moment forget the one whose birthday is being commemorated while in our zeal we go about the joyful and exciting preparation for the happy festivities.

Let us use this occasion as a new impetus to inspirit us on the Christ-path of truth and love.

Let us use it as an opportunity to express the Universal Christ-love for all people and all creatures—exalted and lowly, near and far, large and small, known and unknown.

While we are remembering the physical birth of the baby Christ Jesus, let us realize his eternal loving presence in omnipresent Christ Consciousness, which is always with us no matter where we are or what we are doing.

Let us resolve anew to discipline ourselves—to control our bodies, our minds, and our emotions—and to strive ever toward Christ understanding.

Let us establish the Prince of Peace consciousness as our inner ruler, that we may meet our crosses and tests of life with power, victory, and tranquility.

Let us meditate until we perceive the Infinite Christ reigning in our own hearts.

Let us learn to love those who love us not; and to forgive those who do ill against us.

Let us break all our mental boundaries of color, creed, and nationality, and receive all—even our inanimate and animal brothers—in the endless, all-embracing arms of our Christ Consciousness. This will be a true and fitting celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ to this earth.

Let us rejoice and give thanks for this wonderful gift of light and love from the Great Giver.

Peace. Joy. Peace

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Following in the Footsteps of Jesus: Meditations on the Gospels for Year B, by José A. Pagola. This small volume contains short but insightful meditations on the weekly lectionary passages of scripture used in the Catholic Church. They are well put and thoughtful. But what makes the book really worth reading is, believe it or not, Professor Pagola's brief Foreward. It cuts right to the heart of Christianity and calls believers back to the center, Jesus Christ. "He is the one who can free us from spiritual inertia and stagnation. He can revive our faith and set our hearts on fire. Without him everything shuts down: the gospel becomes a dead letter; the church is just another organization; religious practice is frozen." Exactly.

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P.S.: It is now possible to register for both of my 2012 Ghost Ranch classes,  "As Death Nears: Preparing for the End of Life," to be taught July 8-15, with Dr. Nancy Tilson-Mallett,  and "The Questions of Forgiveness: Writing Toward Wholeness," to be taught July 16-22, with Douglas Hundley. For more details and to register, click here. And don't wait long. I expect both classes to fill up rather quickly. Ghost Ranch is a beautiful retreat center in northern New Mexico.

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ANOTHER P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.


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