Spiritual Friendships

Last weekend Pope Francis made a three-day trip through the Holy Land, a land torn asunder by religious differences.

We really need inter-religious dialogue; in fact, our very survival depends upon it. There is a Buddhist story in which a disciple once told the Buddha that he felt friendship comprised half of the spiritual life. Buddha corrected the monk by saying friendship was the whole of spiritual life. Friendship between religions is not optional; and that friendship must be based in mutual respect. Only in friendship can we begin to experience unity, and in that unity we may come to realize that our collective understanding will lead to peace and harmony…and God. No religion has a monopoly on truth and wisdom. Even if I truly believe that Christianity, and even more specifically Catholicism, contains all the truth I need to help me find my way to God (and I do), it nonetheless is imperative that I be open to the truth found in other religions and be willing to learn from them. Many Christians have claimed that their faith has grown stronger though dialogue with Buddhists. I know my Christian faith has been made stronger by reading the spiritual works of great Buddhist and Jewish writers, such as Thich Nhat Hanh and Abraham Joshua Heschel. And I’m greatly moved by the celebrated Muslim mystic and poet Rumi.

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