Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ridvan 2010 Message, Take 1

I knew it.

Last night when I saw the Ridvan Message in my inbox, I just knew that all my plans for the next few weeks of writing would go out the window. Well, they did. Almost. I actually planned on writing about this message today. I just had no idea what it would be about. (In fact, I didn't know that they would talk about direct teaching when I wrote about that yesterday, but then again, it shouldn't surprise me.)

There I was, checking my e-mail, when I saw the message come in. I ran upstairs and printed it off, grateful to be receiving it earlier than I expected. As I walked back downstairs, my heart was beating fast, realizing that I was holding the latest guidance from the Supreme Institution, guidance that would guide the planet for the next year, or longer.

When I sat down, before I could read more than even a single paragraph, I found that I just had to say a prayer of gratitude.

Then I began reading.

"With hearts filled with admiration for the followers of Baha'u'llah..."

Oh, how those simple words made me smile.

It all begins with the heart, and how wonderful it is that we, as a global Baha'i community, have been able to do something to fill those dear hearts with admiration. What more could we possibly ask for?

I truly believe that we could little better than follow their example of bowing "our heads in gratitude to God" and giving thanks.

From here, I could easily go on and look at each paragraph, or sentence, and trace the development of themes and ideas, but what I really feel moved to do is look at just a few simple ideas that stand out.

In the fourth paragraph, when looking at what has come to be called Anna's presentation in Ruhi Book 6, they point out, in a language so beautiful and touching, a very important point.  "Where the logic underlying that presentation is appreciated, and the urge to convert it into a formula overcome, it gives rise to a conversation between two souls..."

Doesn't that just describe the truth of the teaching process? First, recognizing the need for a logical progression from one idea to the next, and not merely reducing it to the level of a script. This makes the person you are talking to important, instead of only being an audience. But then, look at that last phrase - "a conversation between two souls". That is the reality. Isn't it?

We are not just talking to people, or even worse, a sub-category of people, like "the poor", but to actual living souls. When we keep that in mind, when we truly see the one with whom we are conversing as another soul, how can we fail to to talk about spiritual matters? We always speak at the level of the spirit, for that is what we are: spirit.

At the end of that same paragraph, they make another point that literally brought tears to my eyes. They write, "Whether the first contact with such newly found friends elicits an invitation for them to enrol in the Baha'i community or to participate in one of its activities is not an overwhelming concern. More important is that every soul feel welcome to join the community in contributing to the betterment of society..."
To reiterate, "it is not an overwhelming concern" if we invite them to enrol, or join in our core activities. Instead, what is of greater concern is that we make sure they feel welcome to join us in our various efforts to better society.

But our real concern, as far as I can tell, is helping them to develop their spiritual capacities and become active agents of change. You see, once we recognize the spiritual nature of people, then we are concerned about their growth, not their name.

Now this is not to say that we are not concerned about their spiritual growth, or that we don't want to extend the invitation to them to enrol, if they recognize Baha'u'llah as a Messenger of God. Quite the contrary. If they recognize, we should hasten to invite them to join us as members of the Community of the Most Great Name. (You can tell by the language of that previous sentence that I just read a message from the Universal House of Justice.)

They speak of this so beautifully in paragraph 26 (the one that begins "In this long-term process...), "No greater joy is there, to be sure, than for a soul, yearning for the Truth, to find shelter in the stronghold of the Cause and draw strength from the unifying power of the Covenant. Yet every human being and every group of individuals, irrespective of whether they are counted among His followers, can take inspiration from His teachings, benefiting from whatever gems of wisdom and knowledge will aid them in addressing the challenges they face."

And finally, for today, in the last paragraph, they sum it all up with "love".

"All of the developments examined in the preceding pages are, at the most profound level, but an expression of universal love achieved through the power of the Holy Spirit. For is it not love for God that burns away all veils of estrangement and division and binds hearts together in perfect unity?"

This is such a different vision of faith (as opposed to religion) than is common in society today, where too many see religion (as opposed to faith) as a means of discord, aggression and terror.

Once again, the Universal House of Justice has clarified our vision and set our goals higher than we previously thought possible. I don't know about you, but my heart is filled with admiration for those servants on that mighty Institution, and I bow my head in gratitude to God for giving us this body under which we all march together.


  1. Could I just ask, having read the letter, what do the Universal House of Justice want Baha'is to do (in simple terms)?

  2. What a wonderful question. You actually have me sitting here almost dumbfounded in confusion trying to come up with an answer.

    While I truly cannot answer from an authoritative viewpoint, I can answer for myself.

    I believe that they want us to first, and foremost, understand how love is the fundamental basis of all that we do. What we do, as Baha'is, is not done because we want to convert people to our faith, nor for any other form of vested self-interest. No. It is done because we truly love all people and want to honestly see the world become a better place for everyone, not just our own little group of like-minded people.

    Once that is our basis, I think they want us to learn to take small steps, evaluate the effect of what we do, and then learn to be more effective in our efforts.

    With that foundation in place, I believe that they want us to help transform civilization, beginning at the level of the neighbourhood. To do this requires a transformation of ourselves, of course, but not in isolation.

    To be most effective in this process, the four core activities, meaning devotional gatherings and the spiritual education courses for children, junior youth and adults, need to be established.

    How's that for an answer?

    1. Understand love is the foundation
    2. Learn to be effective
    3. Establish the four core activities as a means to transform civilization, and each person.

    Thanks for asking such a difficult question!

    With love and prayers,