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Asking the Clergy: What is your favorite religious story?

From left, the Rev. Msgr. James Vlaun of

From left, the Rev. Msgr. James Vlaun of the Catholic Faith Network, Rabbi Elliot Skiddell of the Central Synagogue-Beth Emeth and Narinder Kapoor, member of the Multi-Faith Forum of Long Island. Credit: Catholic Faith Network; Julie Skiddell; Narinder Kapoor

The Bible and other religious texts are filled with compelling stories that generally have a moral. This week’s clergy share passages that have special meaning to them and other members of their faith. 

The Rev. Msgr. James Vlaun

President and CEO, Catholic Faith Network, Diocese of Rockville Centre

We listen to the Gospel passage of The Upper Room (John 20:19-31) the Sunday after Easter. The resurrected Christ breaks through the locked doors of the place where the Apostles were filled with fear, mourning, hurt and dismay.

Poor Thomas gets his famous nickname here, “Doubting Thomas.” Being absent, he says, “I won't believe it unless I put my hands in the nail marks and into his side.” Later in the passage he does, and he does believe.

I love this passage because it is about us. Jesus breaks into the locked parts of our life and transforms our brokenness, our wounds, into sacred wounds that identify him not as dead but alive.

If you’ve ever seen an authentic Navajo rug, it is hand-loomed over many months with a mistake called the “soul mark” placed in it intentionally. For the Navajo, that is where God makes the piece holy — not where things go right but where things go wrong. This passage offers such tremendous hope for us; Jesus, risen from the dead, still has the marks of crucifixion — transformed into signs not of death but of hope and life. That is indeed good news.

This encounter with the resurrected Christ foretells that the wounds in our life, the disappointment, the losses, the personal pain we carry, will also be transformed, for that is where God breaks in and offers us salvation. Jesus offers a prayer he offers more than any other in the Gospels, “Be not afraid.” That needs to be our prayer, too; that we not be afraid to be transformed into signs of hope that proclaim God’s goodness to those we encounter.

Rabbi Elliot Skiddell

Central Synagogue-Beth Emeth, Rockville Centre

Whether we read the Bible daily, weekly or occasionally, we find passages that move us and inform us, challenge us and teach us. In Jewish tradition, there is a saying from the Talmud, “Turn it and turn it, for everything is in it.”

Among all the awesome Biblical texts how could I, or anyone, select a “favorite”? Depending on my mood or what is happening in my world, I resonate with different stories at different times. However, I am always drawn to the saga of Joseph and his brothers where we find the human drama in all its variety. There we encounter a family experiencing many of the challenges that our families face today, such as how to raise children with good values, how to deal with sibling rivalry and even how to maintain family connections when we are physically far from one another. There is an incident of sexual harassment that could be drawn from today’s headlines and a theme of the struggle for upward mobility in a challenging economy. If you’re looking for a Biblical story that reads like a bestseller, I recommend the saga of Joseph in Genesis chapters 37 through 47.

Narinder Kapoor

Member, board of directors, Multi-Faith Forum of Long Island, Melville

My favorite story is deeply rooted in the collective mind of India. It is from Bhagwat Puran, an old Hindu treatise.

Sudama was a childhood friend of Lord Krishna from Mathura, India. Sudama was from a very poor Brahmin family. Lord Krishna was from the royal family. They lost contact over the years, and while Lord Krishna became the king of Dwaraka, India, Sudama remained a poor Brahmin in a small village. He did not have anything at all. And once Sudama’s wife told him, “See, Krishna is your very close friend, dearest friend. Why don’t you go and ask him for some help?” Sudama was shy, saying, “How can I ask a friend for something? I don’t feel like doing it.” Ultimately, he decided to meet Lord Krishna. Sudama reached Dwaraka. In his gorgeous and beautifully decorated palace, Lord Krishna was sitting on his throne, surrounded by servants. The moment he saw Sudama, he rushed down and washed his friend’s feet with his own tears. Lord Krishna put poor Sudama on the throne, greatly pleased to see his old friend. He treated him royally with love.

Overwhelmed with the joy of meeting his old friend, Sudama forgot to ask anything. And Lord Krishna forgot to give him anything, realizing the purpose of the visit only after his friend had left the palace. When Sudama reached home, his little hut was transformed into a beautiful palace, and his wife and children were beautifully dressed.

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