Around 1,000 BCE, the Israelites were at war with the Philistines, and the armies were encamped in a valley northwest of Jerusalem. One day, a young shepherd boy, David, was bringing food to his brothers serving in King Saul’s army when he heard of the giant, Goliath, boasting to the Israelites that not one of their soldiers was strong or brave enough to fight him. David accepted the challenge and confronted the giant with only a knife, a sling, and a few stones from a nearby river. A rock thrown at Goliath’s temple knocked the giant down, and David cut off his head.
After defeating Goliath, David’s popularity among the Israelites grew, and eventually, King Saul feared for his life. Though David was loyal to King Saul, his enemies sought to stir up controversy. When Saul and his sons were killed in battle, David became the second King of Israel, bringing the Ark of the Covenant with him to Jerusalem.
Though David was known as a great King, he was a flawed human being and often prayed to God for safety, courage, and strength
2 Samuel 11:2-12:24 tells the story of King David’s love affair with Bethsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. When Bethsheba became pregnant, King David ordered Uriah to the front lines of the war where he was certain to be killed. After Uriah’s death, David and Bethsheba are married, and she gives birth to their son, Solomon.
Not only are these stories about King David found in the writings of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, David himself authored parts of the Old Testament.
According to the Life Application Study Bible (pg 841), the Book of Psalms is a collection of timeless prayers that express the heart and soul of humanity. David contributed 73 poems to the Book of Psalms, songs that praise God and ask him for forgiveness and for victory in battle.
The Torah tells the stories of the Hebrew people, the prophets and their descendants that received God’s laws and traveled to the “promised land” of modern-day Israel.
The Torah was written in the Hebrew language, and Hebrew was spoken by the Israelites for centuries, eventually being replaced by Aramaic when Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians in 587 BCE.
Dr. Jack Fellman, writing for JewishVirtualLibrary.org, explains that in the 18th century, the Jewish Enlightenment resulted in a revival of many of the ancient traditions of Judaism. At that time, Hebrew was only being taught in synagogues in order to study the original text of the Hebrew Bible. A Jewish scholar named Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (1858-1922) worked to bring the ancient Hebrew language into the twentieth century, and today it’s one of two official languages spoken within Jewish communities in Israel and around the world.
March 2, 2018 is the start of the Hindu “festival of colors” known as Holi. The theme of this tradition is the triumph of good over evil. The holiday is celebrated by lighting bonfires on the evening before and then gathering the next day to throw brightly colored powder at each other in a spirit of love and happiness.
According to HinduismToday.com, the lighting of the bonfires represents the death of Holika, the evil sister of Prahlada. Holika’s father was angry and jealous that his son Prahlada was filled with peace as he worshiped the Hindu god Vishnu, and he plotted to kill him. He instructed Holika to lure her brother onto a pyre where he would light a fire that her magic shawl would protect her from while Prahlada would be killed. When the fire was lit, the god Vishnu intervened, causing the magic shawl to fly from Holika’s shoulders onto Prahlada, protecting him while the evil Holika was burned away.
The festive colors of Holi have a basis in Hindu mythology as well. The god Vishnu is believed to be embodied by Krishna, an indigo-colored boy playing a flute. Krishna was said to be so in love with Radha, the fair-skinned Hindu goddess, that he playfully sprinkled her with colored spices to make her look like him.
The history of Islam begins with the story of Muhammad ibn Abdullah, believed to be the last and most recent prophet chosen to receive God’s message to humanity.
According to Muslim tradition, Muhammad often prayed alone in the hills near the city of Mecca. One day, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and recited the first of many revelations about the one true God, Allah.
Muhammad talked with others about how they should stop worshiping the idols of their separate religions and pray only to Allah while striving to live in peace with one another. He recorded the divine revelations within the 114 chapters of the Quran (For more information about the world’s fastest-growing religion, visit IslamReligion.com ).
May 15, 2018 is the start of Ramadan, celebrated in remembrance of Muhammad’s prophecies and the beginning of the religion of Islam.
Though Buddhist traditions vary from one community to another, Vesak is the most celebrated festival of the year, usually observed on the day of the full moon during Vaishaka, the second month on the Hindu calendar.
Buddhists believe that on Vesak, or “Buddha Day”:
• Siddhartha Gautama was born in the year 563 BCE in Nepal
• He became Buddha, or “the enlightened one” about 35 years later
• He passed away from natural causes at the age of 83
Vesak is a day of prayer and meditation. Small gifts are brought to Buddhist monks as they chant the ancient teachings of the Buddha. Colorful artwork and paper lamps represent the lightness of Buddha’s soul as he inspires the younger generation.
In 2018, Buddha Day is celebrated on May 29th.
In the twelveth century, the man history would come to know as Saint Francis was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone in Assisi, Italy. His father had just returned home from a journey to France, and he immediately rechristened his new-born son “Francesco” after the country where his business had recently prospered. Francis was raised to be a cloth merchant like his father. He was educated, served in the military, and as a typical youth he lacked self-discipline and rebelled against his overbearing father.
In his 20’s, Francis searched for his own identity and often retreated into the forest to pray. He felt called by God to rebuild a crumbling church in the countryside near Assisi. When he stole cloth from his father to purchase stone and tools, he was taken to court to be reprimanded. Instead of agreeing to repay his father, Francis denounced his family and vowed to help the poor by living in poverty himself and preaching about Jesus.
Francis lived a humble, frugal existence yet he was filled with joy. He was drawn to the natural world and was said to have an overwhelming compassion for all living things. On his travels through the Italian countryside, he sought to help others and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
In 1209, Pope Innocent III allowed Francis and his followers to establish the Franciscan Order within the Roman Catholic Church.
After years of selflessly living in extreme poverty, Francis’ physical and mental health began to deteriorate. He died at age 45 and his remains are interred at the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi.
When a new Pope is elected, he immediately appears on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica and is introduced to the world by his papal name. The name each Pope chooses is an indication of a historical figure he most admires or the role he envisions for himself in the Church.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected the 266th Pope on March 13, 2013. He is the first Pope Francis in history. Known for his humility and compassion, He is the only Pope in recent years to surrender the wealth and power of the Vatican in order to dedicate himself to lifting others out of spiritual poverty.