A Christmas Letter from Muslim Leaders in Minneapolis

This letter was published yesterday in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I share it in its entirety, along with the names of the signatories of the letter. May its dissemination be a cause of increased Christian-Muslim dialogue and understanding.

To our Christian brothers and sisters:

Out of our shared love for the Messiah, Jesus, Son of Mary, Peace Be Upon Him, we greet you with peace and joy during your celebration of his life.

The Bible refers to him as the Messiah and describes the annunciation, his miraculous birth and his numerous miracles.

The Qur’an refers to him as the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary. It teaches about his miraculous birth and how his mother Mary was honored above all the worlds. Muslims are instructed to invoke peace upon him whenever his name is mentioned.

The Qur’an narrates the story of the angel who visited Mary, saying “O Mary, indeed God has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of all the worlds.” (Qur’an 3:42)

The angel said, “O Mary, indeed God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary. He will be honored in this world and the Hereafter and he will be among those closest to God. He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and he will be of the righteous.” (Qur’an 3:44-45)

She said, “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” The angel said, “Such is God; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.” (3:47)

The Qur’an describes how the baby Jesus, immediately upon birth, looked up to his mother and comforted her: “Do not be sad; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream. And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates. So eat and drink and be contented.” (Qur’an 19:24-26)

The Qur’an describes many instances in the life of Jesus: how he preached the worship of God and compassion to people, how he healed the leper, how he healed the blind, and even how he brought the dead back to life.

Our two religions, Christianity and Islam, which both profess love and reverence for Jesus as a central figure in each of our religions, constitute over half of the population of the world.

Mercy and compassion, charity and love are the divine attributes that the Christmas season evokes among Christians. A mother’s devotion, a child’s love, and the promise of God’s mercy and grace in the coming of Jesus to us are sentiments that Muslims can share and appreciate. Continue reading


Growing in Love and Wisdom

As I’ve mentioned on a number of occasions, I’ve written a book that adapts Tibetan Buddhist analytical meditations for Christians. The book, titled Growing In Love and Wisdom: Tibetan Buddhist Sources for Christian Meditation, will be released by Oxford University Press on October 1.

This books has been a real labor of love. As a Christian I continue to benefit much from what I learned during my years as a Buddhist and I am happy to share some of that with others. Here is Oxford’s description of the book:

In Growing in Love and Wisdom, Susan Stabile draws on a unique dual perspective to explore the value of interreligious dialogue, the essential spiritual dynamics that operate across faith traditions, and the many fruitful ways Buddhist meditation practices can deepen Christian prayer.

Raised as a Catholic, Stabile devoted 20 years of her life to practicing Buddhism and was ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun before returning to Catholicism in 2001. She begins the book by examining the values and principles shared by the two faith traditions, focusing on the importance of prayer–particularly contemplative prayer–to both Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism. Both traditions seek to effect a fundamental transformation in the lives of believers, and both stress the need for experiences that have deep emotional resonance, that go beyond the level of concepts to touch the heart. Stabile illuminates the similarities between Tibetan Buddhist meditations and Christian forms of prayer such as Ignatian Contemplation and Lectio Divina; she explores as well such guided Buddhist practices as Metta and Tonglen, which cultivate compassion and find echoes in Jesus’ teachings about loving one’s enemies and transcending self-cherishing. The heart of the book offers 15 Tibetan Buddhist practices adapted to a contemplative Christian perspective. Stabile provides clear instructions on how to do these meditations as well as helpful commentary on each, explaining its purpose and the relation between the original and her adaptation. Throughout, she highlights the many remarkably close parallels in the teachings of Jesus and Buddha.

Arguing that engagement between religions offers mutual enrichment and greater understanding of both traditions, Growing in Love and Wisdom shows how Buddhist meditation can be fruitfully adapted for Christian prayer.

Yesterday was an exciting day for me because the book cover image was finally visible on Amazon, Oxford and other sites from which you can pre-order the book.

To my mind, Oxford came up with a perfect book cover and I am grateful to them for their efforts:

Be on the lookout for notices re talks and book signings after the book’s release.

Now that this book is completed (all that is left is my reading of page proofs at the end of this month), I’ve turned my efforts back to the book I’m writing on my conversion from Catholicism to Buddhism back to Catholicism.

World Day of Social Justice

Today the United Nations celebrates the first World Day of Social Justice, intended to become an annual event. The day offers all of us an opportunity to reflect on our role in promoting the social justice so necessary to secure a lasting peace. In the words of Pope Paul VI in Octogesiam Adveniens, “It is too easy to throw back on others responsibility for injustices, if at the same time one does not realize how each one shares in it personally, and how personal conversion is needed first.”

All of us who call ourselves Christians are called to share a transformation process with God – to be agents of social change. We can, by our individual actions, make a difference. We can contribute to peace and justice in the world. In the words of Dean Brackley: “Responding to massive injustice according to each one’s calling is the price of being human, and Christian, today. Those looking for a privatized spirituality to shelter them from a violent world have come to the wrong place.”

Today offers us an invitation to ask: how am I called to respond to injustice? How am I called to be an agent of social change?

Rhetorical Christians

Today’s Gospel reading reminded me of a sermon I heard preached a couple of weeks ago.  Matthew’s Gospel has Jesus telling to the chief priests and elders the story of two sons.  The father asks each of them to go out and work in the vineyard.  The first tells his father he will not, but ends up going out and doing the work his father asked of him.  The second assures the father he will do as he asks, but never does so.  When Jesus asks his audience which of the two actually did the will of the father, they have no difficulty identifying the first.

In the sermon that so struck me, the priest spoke of “rhetorical Christians.”  Rhetorical Christians, he said, are great at telling you what they believe.  They believe Jesus Christ is their Lord and Master…they believe all of the right things, and they say all the right things.  They are willing to shout what they believe from the rooftops.  They talk about what they believe, but their actions provide no evidence of their belief.  You can not tell it from their lives.

When Jesus asks, “Do you believe?”, what he is asking, said this priest, is: “Do you believe I can change you?  Do you believe I can change anything?”  Effectively, Jesus asks, Will you let yourself be transformed by Me?  It is not about reciting a lot of stuff about what we believe.  It is about being completely transformed by Christ.  And there is nothing rhetorical about that.