Dear Urban Abbey Members and Friends:
The meditation below by Fr. Don Talafous struck me as a marvelous affirmation of how God touches and is present for people of all religions. None of us has an ‘exclusive” relationship with God. We in our Urban Abbey, like Fr. Talafous, have been enriched by religious practices from other religions – I can recall one of our Community meetings where Raima Later led us in Hindu chant. There have been others.
I was also struck by Fr. Talafous’ response on the appropriateness of a Christian book for a Jewish friend. Early in our Urban Abbey’s history, we struggled with how to be open to all who come to the Abbey for refreshment, but yet retain our focus as a community deeply rooted in the Christian tradition and following Christ as our model for interaction in the world.
For me, the meditation has several messages. One is to be open to insights into spirituality and ways of becoming more in union with God offered by other religious traditions. A second message is to focus on the truths we share with fellow Christians and those from other religious traditions when we are in discussions. This will allow us to truly listen and understand others. We are not called to change our own beliefs, but to find those areas where we can work with others to advance God’s kingdom. A final message from this meditation is to remember our own faith tradition and honor it in our lives.
I invite you to share the insights this meditation has for you.
Shalom and many blessings, George
One problem a collection of reflections like this might have competing on the Internet with other Web sites of "spirituality" results from the inclusion of the Christian perspective. Books with wider public appeal do not betray or give preference to any such "narrow" perspective as the critics would call it. A friend asked me if a book of my reflections would be an appropriate gift for some Jewish friends. I had to say that I didn't think so. No effort is made here to exclude Jewish or Islamic or Hindu readers; in fact I am indebted to these faiths for insights. I believe with St. Paul that God has not left any part of the world without some witness to God's love for us. For Christians that witness shines out in Jesus Christ. But I don't think that we can say that it is only in Christ that God has revealed something about God's love for all human beings. On the other hand, to ignore Christ in the interest of a wider appeal would be turning our backs on what has formed and nourished us. Faithful Jews, it seems to me, must affirm that God has shown love for them by the care given the Chosen People and described in the Scriptures. Other religions affirm a similar message through entirely different images of God or of the power that cares for the world. It's hard to imagine -- impossible to believe -- that God does not make the divine love available to human beings wherever they are. – Fr. Don Talafous, St John’s Abbey
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