Beauty in Interfaith Peace:
Wedding Feast of the World
We can find interfaith peace as brothers and sisters of all religious paths, even in the haunted memory of extremist religious terror.
During his U.S. visit, Pope Francis participated in an interfaith ceremony at Ground Zero. The prayers and songs of all the faiths were beautiful and haunting. They revealed and respected the healing love of the Holy Spirit amidst human tragedy. This ceremony was true worship, worthy of the holiest throne in heaven. It touched the heart of God.
Interfaith peace teaches us about the many faces of God. There are infinite ways of knowing and experiencing divinity.
Jesus showed us the path of love. He spoke often of the Father’s heart, taking care of the poor and least of the world. Love is the kingdom of heaven on earth.
Buddha showed us how to know God through meditation. To deny the ego is to know Love.
Judaism teaches us how to respect and approach the Holy.
Hinduism contemplates our personal battles with light and darkness. The world, and cosmic, battles of good and evil begin with me and you.
Each religion, each culture, and each person’s individual spiritual paths are unique and valuable. We all have things to teach each other.
In Matthew 22, Jesus tells about a wedding feast. This feast of the ages, heaven’s biggest party, includes invitees of every nation and tongue. I grew up in Evangelical Christianity. I learned that “every nation and tongue” meant we must go to all the nations and turn everyone else into Protestant Christians. (Yes, in this tradition, even Catholics are condemned to hell.)
But God has spoken to me many times and challenged me to look beyond this narrow viewpoint. The good news of Jesus is the kingdom of God, hope for the hopeless, love for the lonely. There are no tears at the wedding feast. The guests at the feast are devout followers of God from every religion.
Look at this passage:
Revelation 7:9, 15-17 NIV
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ”
This multitude before the throne includes every person who searched for God with his/her full heart. People of every religion who have embraced the palm branch of interfaith peace. People who took up their cross to find the Lamb. No matter their nation or cultural religious path, these people endured the cross of hunger, thirst, homelessness, and persecution of all forms. Through their tears and their love, they find the Shepherd. They drink deeply the living water.
The feast of heaven is the ultimate interfaith celebration.
There is no place at this feast for religious hatred. A religious egoist cannot put on the wedding garments of humility. An extremist cannot hold the holy palm branch. My own sister claims to be an “extremist” for Jesus. Where is the love? Jesus doesn’t want Christian (or Muslim or Hindu) extremists. He wants humble, merciful lovers and peacemakers.
Jesus told us:
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are the merciful,for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Matthew 5:5, 7-7, 9 NIV
Jesus told us that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the children. Children innately know peace and mercy. Pope Francis’ earthly interfaith ceremony ended with children singing. These children sang while holding hands. Beautiful hands of every color.
So it will be in heaven’s feast. We will all hold hands of every color. Hands of every faith. Hands of love.
Beautiful hands of interfaith peace.