Monday, August 1, 2011

Ramadan begins

Today begins what Muslims throughout the world observe as the holy month of Ramadan. Since, like the Jewish calendar, the Islamic calendar is a lunar one Ramadan moves up about eleven days every year, which is why it seems to many people who don’t really pay attention to such things that Ramadan is all over the place as far as when it happens. Over the course of 34 years, a person who observes Ramadan, which requires fasting from both and drink during daylight hours, will have fasted on every day of the calendar year.

Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar. It marks the period of time when Muslims believe that the Qu’ran
The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Qur-an was revealed, as a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of guidance, and the Discrimination. So, whoever among you witnesses the month he will then observe Sawm therein. But whoever is sick or on a journey, there is then the counting out of the other days. Allah desires facility for you, and He does not desire difficulty for you; and that you should complete the number, and that you may exalt Allah for His guiding you; and that perhaps you may give thanks (Sura 2, Ayat 185)
Christians, too, have a holy season each year. We call it Lent. It is to be a time for us like Ramadan is for Muslims. In addition to fasting from food, drink, and, for those who are married, refraining from sexual relations during the hours of fasting, Muslims are expected to pray more, study the Qu’ran more, and to give alms more frequently, freely, and generously. In contemporary Christianity we talk about fasting from everything except what Christians have traditionally refrained from indulging in during seasons of fasting. What it may surprise many to know is that part and parcel of eating less, fasting more, and refraining from other good things, also calls us to tone things down, to seek out less entertainment, to spend time reading the Scriptures and other spiritual reading, praying, going to confession, attending Mass more frequently, maybe even every day, and giving alms and engaging in acts of charity.

Prayer, fasting, and alms-giving are hallmarks of the so-called Abrahamic faiths. Jesus not only does not seek to do away with these practices, but, as with most things, He intensifies them. He first does so by telling His followers in His Sermon on the Mount to "take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father" (Matt. 6:1). He teaches us that when we give alms not let "your left hand know what [our] right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you" (Matt. 6:3-4). Similarly, He teaches that "when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you" (Matt. 6:6). With regards to fasting, we are taught: "when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you" (Matt. 6:17-18).

An article picked up by Sandro Magister in late 2009, written by Marina Corradi for the Italian newspaper L’ Avvenire, Dutch seminary professor, Wim Peeters said, "I believe that we would have nothing to fear from Islam, if we were Christians." He goes on to observe something about the Netherlands that is easily translatable to all Western countries, even increasingly the U.S.: it seems we are afraid of everything, from having children to immigrants. "But," Peeters reminds us echoing the words of the Scripture (1 John 4:18), "fear is the exact opposite of faith." Besides, Christians were engaging in these practices for centuries prior to the advent of Islam.

In his preaching, Blessed John Henry Newman, insisted that
"It is commonly said, that fasting is intended to make us better Christians, to sober us, and to bring us more entirely at Christ's feet in faith and humility. This is true, viewing matters on the whole. On the whole, and at last, this effect will be produced, but it is not at all certain that it will follow at once." He also observed that "since prayer is not only the weapon… in our conflict with the powers of evil, but a deliverance from evil is ever implied as the object of prayer, it follows that all texts whatever which speak of our addressing and prevailing on Almighty God, with prayer and fasting, do, in fact, declare this conflict and promise this victory over the evil one."
There is an important convergence this year because Ramadan begins on the same day that the two week Dormition fast starts for most Eastern Christians. So, this presents us with an opportunity.

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