The tree of Abraham


It is a blessing to have a Pope who sees a world of religious multiplication rather than religious division.

Many of us grew up in an era of “We are right and the others are wrong.”

Christian churches seemed to have high fences around them, and religions that were not Christian were often labelled “Heathen” or “Pagan.”

These divisions were puzzling when we were young.

Children tend to see God in everything.

I love the way Pope Francis strengthens the Catholic faith with a wider understanding of world religions.

Belief is largely cultural.

Our history, environment and traditions, make a receptacle for the Spiritual Presence that we know but can’t directly describe.

Each religion values the rituals that lead to the heart space.

Each cherishes forms of prayer.

Each has a knowledge of God.

And we discover that the more we appreciate other religions, the deeper we come into our own faith.

It is the way God works.

My love of the Catholic Church has some connection with Judaism and Islam, the other two Abrahamic religions.

Let’s put it this way:

God planted a treeing Israel and it grew, a strong Jewish tree sending out two solid branches, one Christian and the other Islamic.

The branches were of a different shape, but they had the same roots and the life of God running through them.

So what do I gain from this tree of Abraham?

There are Jewish teachings that are very close to my Catholic faith.  Here are two:

We are born with two instincts, Yetzah Hatov, unselfishness, and Yetzah Hara, selfishness. The more we practice unselfishness, the more the selfish instinct will change.

The soul comes from God and the soul is always pure. But the soul wears three gardens: thought, word and deed, and these get soiled and need cleansing. When the garments are clean, the soul can see the light.

What gifts have come from Islam?

Hospitality to the stranger, and prayer throughout the day. There is also more about Jesus’ mother in the Qu’ran than there is in the New Testament of the Bible.

I think God has undone most of the fear-based prejudice of my ancestors, but I still have a long way to go.

Thanks to the leadership of Pope Francis, I make the journey of discovery, with love.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.
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