March 19, 2021

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Celebrations are part of other faith traditions this time of year

Fr. Rick GintherThe warmth of spring is washing over us. Among people of varied faiths, high holidays are near.

For we Catholic Christians and other Christians, the great days of Holy Week will commence on Saturday afternoon, March 27.

Palm fronds, holy oils, tabernacles renewed, the Passion proclaimed and crosses adored—each a tangible reminder of the journey of salvation.

All of these culminate in the great Easter Vigil/Easter Sunday on April 3-4.

Our baptismal promises find renewal, bells and “Alleluia!” are no longer muffled, and our hearts sing of resurrection hope!

For other faith communities, other moments of joy and hope are soon to unfold as well.

Jainism is one of the three great religions of India. Jains celebrate annually Mahavir Jayanti, a one-day festival marking the birth of Tirthankar Mahavir, the founder of Jainism whom the call “the enlightened one.”

Tirthankar Mahavir was born in the early part of the 6th century BC—the same era as Gautama Buddha—in the state of Bihar, India. His life was punctuated by royal birth, abandonment of royal standing, penance, fasting, silence and contemplation.

From this lifestyle emerged the five principles of Jainism—non-violence, truth, honesty, personal restraint and non-attachment. A love for all things living infused his entire belief structure.

On March 25, Jains around the world will observe special ceremonies in Jain temples. Among the ceremonies will be ceremonial bathing of the statue of Tirthankar Mahavir, cultural programs with music and dance, a feast for visitors to the temple and donations to the poor and needy.

To learn more about Jainism, one can visit their worship space housed within the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana, 3350 N. German Church Road, in Indianapolis. For the basics of Jainism, visit umich.edu/~umjains/overview.html.

Just as the Jain community completes its festival, the great Jewish festival of Passover commences on the evening of March 27 and concludes on the evening of April 4.

Passover celebrates Hebrew freedom from slavery in Egypt. It is the onset of the great Exodus experience retold in Exodus, Deuteronomy and Numbers.

Specifically, Passover commemorates the 10th plague.

As the Book of Exodus relates, God, through his prophet Moses, enjoins the Hebrew people to prepare a feast of roasted lamb and unleavened bread. They are told to stand as they eat, as if on a journey.

Blood from the sacrificed lambs was to be sprinkled upon the lintel and doorposts of their dwellings. This marking protected their homes from the angel of death. This angel moved about the Egyptian households, destroying their firstborn sons and animals.

The Exodus through the Red Sea, initial wanderings in the desert and arrival at Sinai follow, making the Passover the root of God’s Sinai Covenant with his people.

Our contemporary Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate the Passover meal in their homes. They gather as families of faith. Blood relatives and other Jews without local family often gather as one. For we non-Jews and citizens of the United States, these extended family gatherings are similar to large family gatherings at Thanksgiving.

As we Catholics and other Christians approach Holy Week and Easter, let us remember Jains and Jews as they prepare to celebrate their special festivals both historic and faith-based. Let us join our hope to theirs in the one family of humankind!
 

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs. He is also the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Indianapolis.)

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