Encouragement gleaned from interfaith event - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Encouragement gleaned from interfaith event

I have just returned home from a stimulating evening at Temple Beth El in Rochester.

The Jewish Community Federation of Greater Rochester sponsored a March 5 panel discussion of the book You Don’t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right by Rabbi Brad Hirschfield. Dr. Mohammed Shafiq and I were invited to participate in the panel discussion with Rabbi Hirschfield.

Several things about the experience pleased me very much:

1) There was an excellent turnout for the program. I took great encouragement from the presence of so many people. To me, their presence was a reminder that, even in a culture in which we experience so much polarization, there are many people who search for ways to live in peace with others who have convictions that differ from their own. They are willing to learn about one another’s faith traditions, to identify their common and deeply held values, to work together in service of neighbor — especially those in need.

2) The experience of reading Rabbi Hirschfield’s book and sharing in the discussion led me to lines of thought and prayer which helped me to reflect on my own faith not just as it is today but how it has deepened, been challenged and strengthened through the years. I spent some time contrasting the ecumenical and interfaith environment of my boyhood in the 1940s and 1950s with the environment that has developed since Vatican Council II, which was held in the early 1960s. Reflecting on that evolution renewed my optimism about the future. Surely, there are difficulties and hard questions to be considered as we continue ecumenical and interfaith conversations. But, the progress realized in these post-conciliar years offers a strong reason for the hope of positive development.

3) In the season when Spirit Alive! invites us to open our hearts to a deeper relationship with the Lord, I am grateful that this evening’s event at Temple Beth El and preparation for it both challenged and helped me to do just that. I thought about the Gospel stories which speak of the interaction of Jesus with those who were “different” — the alien, those judged to be sinners by others, those of different faith traditions. He always saw the good in them, treated them with compassion and invited them to further growth. In short, he never ignored their human dignity or demeaned them in any way.

I am grateful for all of the gifts of this evening. I believe that I would find them helpful at any time. But, I find them especially helpful as we come so close to the Easter feast. On that holy day, and through the whole Easter season, we are called to savor, to rejoice in, to share the life with which we have been baptized. We also are called to be alert to life, love, truth and beauty wherever it may be found. I experienced a lot of all of the above this evening in my fellow panelists and in all of the people who shared the experience with us.

I hope that life has been good to you during this Lenten season and that you have had some time to prepare your heart and spirit for the Easter feast.

Peace to all.

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