Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Paragraph 89

Such objections and differences have persisted in every age and century. The people have always busied themselves with such specious discourses, vainly protesting: “Wherefore hath not this or that sign appeared?” Such ills befell them only because they have clung to the ways of the divines of the age in which they lived, and blindly imitated them in accepting or denying these Essences of Detachment, these holy and divine Beings. These leaders, owing to their immersion in selfish desires, and their pursuit of transitory and sordid things, have regarded these divine Luminaries as being opposed to the standards of their knowledge and understanding, and the opponents of their ways and judgments. As they have literally interpreted the Word of God, and the sayings and traditions of the Letters of Unity, and expounded them according to their own deficient understanding, they have therefore deprived themselves and all their people of the bountiful showers of the grace and mercies of God. And yet they bear witness to this well-known tradition: “Verily Our Word is abstruse, bewilderingly abstruse.” In another instance, it is said: “Our Cause is sorely trying, highly perplexing; none can bear it except a favorite of heaven, or an inspired Prophet, or he whose faith God hath tested.” These leaders of religion admit that none of these three specified conditions is applicable to them. The first two conditions are manifestly beyond their reach; as to the third, it is evident that at no time have they been proof against those tests that have been sent by God, and that when the divine Touchstone appeared, they have shown themselves to be naught but dross.

This is the fourth paragraph referring to "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet."

It begins with the people, the regular folk, like us, not the leaders. And He says something quite intriguing, but doesn't really go into it. He says that it is only, and here we emphasize the word "only", due to this blind, thoughtless, imitation of the divines that the people suffered "such ills".

Of course, from there He condemns these leaders for going after temporary and dirty things, instead of striving to find God and lead exemplary lives. Then He reminds us that we will all be tested, every one of us. And finally, He implies that these same leaders seem to think that they are somehow exempt from these tests.

It's all fairly straight forward, but what can we learn from it?

First of all, we learn to avoid blind imitation. Whatever we encounter, whatever we are told, we need to examine it for ourselves. If someone says to us that work is worship, we should examine that, for it is obvious that someone whose job entails abusing their workers or the environment is not actually worshiping God while they are doing so. With a bit of research, we find that 'Abdu'l-Baha has a caveat on that phrase: Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship. So it must be done in the spirit of service.

So, in one sense, we can come back to the concept of independent investigation of the truth. That's one thing we learn from this.

Another thing we can learn is to expect tests. Muhammad said, "Think because you say you believe you will not be tested?" Baha'u'llah re-emphasizes this. If we are not a favorite of heaven, or an inspired Prophet, then He promises us that we will be tested. And really, if you are a favored one, or a Prophet, why are you reading this? No. We will be tested. It's part of life. It's part of growing.

It's also part of our Faith.

The early Christians, for example, when they came to recognize Jesus did not expect heaven. They did not expect their life to be all cheery and rosy. They didn't expect people to surround them and pat them on the back, welcoming them into a nice church community with bake sales and choir concerts. They expected the cross. They expected to get thrown to the lions.

The Babis did not have anything to look forward to from their declaration expect perhaps the loss of their job and their homes, confiscation of all their possessions and eventual martyrdom.

Baha'u'llah, here, seems to be reminding the uncle of the Bab, in a very gentle way, that the tests that he may face will be very real.

And by extension, Baha'u'llah is reminding us of this, too.

When we come to recognize Baha'u'llah, we will need to make some very tough choices in our life. We may need to stop drinking that beer that we love (alright, maybe not so tough), or perhaps quit that job as it goes against some of our core beliefs. We may need to re-think how we spend our money or our free time. We know that we will do it with joy and love, but that joy and love may take some time to recognize. We will be called on to make a sacrifice, but as we know from the Ruhi books, a true sacrifice is giving up something lower for that which is higher.

And guess what? It all comes down to detachment. Remember detachment? Way back in paragraph 1? As we become detached from all that is in heaven and on earth, we can face these tests more easily, and stand a better chance of finding ourselves on the shores of the ocean of true understanding.

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