Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Sacred Intention

Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.

Over the past few years, a lot of my time has been spent working with the interfaith movement, trying to help develop closer ties of love and fellowship amongst people of all religions. This project has been of great concern to me, and filled with great rewards. I have learned a tremendous amount and shared much with others.

One particular sharing that I found very rewarding came when a few of us were asked to speak to an audience about a time when we "saw the light of truth" in another faith path. One renowned individual came up to me, in confidence, and said that he didn't know what to say. "I have only seen the light of truth in Jesus." My reply came unbidden from my mouth: "Of course. And when you see the light of Jesus in another path, then you know it is the light of truth."

Since that moment, that thought has bounced around in my brain quite a bit. What did I mean by that? How does that apply to the followers of other faith paths?

For me, it reminded me of a moment when Marielle and I were in a church. This was quite some time ago, at a point in her life when she had not been able to set foot in a church for years without feelings of anger, or perhaps sadness. I am not sure which. We had spoken a lot about the need for interfaith fellowship, and to not judge a Founder of a faith based on the actions of Their followers. We looked in the Baha'i Writings, spoke of our own feelings, our hopes and our desires. In the end, she stepped into that church with me, to attend an interfaith prayer gathering. We went into the main sanctuary, as it was my habit to always say a prayer at the altar before anything else, and she was waiting by the door as I said my prayer. When I was done, I came back to her, and she was staring at the crucifix above the altar with tears streaming from her eyes. "I just realized," she said, "that is Baha'u'llah up there on the cross."

Years later, when I first began tutoring Ruhi Book 1, Reflections on the Life of the Spirit, many of the participants were not from a Baha'i background. I asked them to make the book their own: if it says "Baha'u'llah says", read it as "Jesus teaches" or "Buddha teaches". If it says "as a Baha'i would you..." read it "as a spiritual human being would you..."

The effect was incredible. Time and again people came away realizing that all the Messengers of God are the same. Although they may differ based on location and time, Their innermost essence, the pith of Their teachings, is identical.

And today, it has come to me to mean that I should hold sacred what you hold to be sacred for the singular reason that it is sacred to you.

I once heard a man speak on interfaith work, and was touched by his actions before he spoke. He approached the microphone, paused, looked puzzled, and then removed his shoes. He said, "When you approach an interfaith dialogue, you are walking on sacred ground."

Just the other day, Marielle and I were invited to represent the Baha'i community at the ordination of the new Archbishop of St Boniface. At the very end, he said, off the cuff, that he welcomed Christians from all paths and was glad they were there for this beautiful celebration. I felt the Jewish representatives near me bristle, and I just smiled. He had obviously not had a lot of experience in interfaith lingo, but his intention was good.

Immediately afterwards, during the recessional, Archbishop Weisgerber of Winnipeg, a man I am proud to call a friend, stopped in the middle of the aisle, which is just not done, and turned to me. He shook my hand, and with a very loving smile said, "We also welcome people of other paths."

He did not need to do that, as he would have known that I would respect and understand his colleague's intention, but he was concerned enough about the hearts of all who were near. This simple action touched me more than I can express.

And this is the thought I want to leave you with: try to regard as sacred that which someone else holds sacred, for the simple reason that it is sacred to them.

1 comment:

  1. And never judge someone because they cannot see a truth that you see. We can't know where other people are coming from. Not even those who we are close too. Just have faith that God will bring us all together.