Take a look at this latest message from the Universal House of Justice, the supreme governing body of the (Haifan) Baha’i Faith, addressed to the Baha’is of the world:
1 January 2011
To the Bahá’ís of the World
Dearly loved Friends,
For the past five days, the Continental Counsellors have been gathered in conference in the Holy Land, engaged in earnest deliberation at once insightful and clear visioned, well grounded and confident, on the progress of the Divine Plan. The joy and wonder of this gathering, now entering its closing moments, has come from the vivid retelling of your numerous exploits, deeds which secured the astonishing attainment of the goal of the Five Year Plan one year early. It is hard to express in words how much love for you has been shown in these few, fleeting days. We praise God that He has raised up a community so accomplished and render thanks to Him for releasing your marvellous potentialities. You it is who, whether in collective endeavours or individual efforts, are presenting the verities of the Faith and assisting souls to recognize the Blessed Beauty. You it is who, in your tens of thousands, are serving as tutors of study circles wherever receptivity is kindled. You it is who, without thought of self, are providing spiritual education to the child and kindly fellowship to the junior youth. You it is who, through visits to homes and invitations to yours, are forging ties of spiritual kinship that foster a sense of community. You it is who, when called to serve on the institutions and agencies of the Cause, are accompanying others and rejoicing in their achievements. And it is all of us,whatever our share in this undertaking, who labour and long, strive and supplicate for the transformation of humanity, envisioned by Baha’u’llah, to be hastened.
A new five-year horizon now beckons, rich with portent. The features of the Plan that will begin this Ridvan are set out in a letter we addressed to the Counsellors Conference at its opening session and which was transmitted to National Spiritual Assemblies the same day. We hope that you will be able to give it thoughtful study, alongside the message we addressed to you at Ridvan 2010, at gatherings of all kinds–whether at the national, regional, or cluster level, in local communities, in neighbourhoods and villages, or in the home. We are certain that, through the consultations about the Plan in which you participate, your understanding will deepen and, conscious of the spiritual forces that support you, you will resolve to make this global enterprise a personal concern and become as occupied with the well-being of the human family as you are with that of your dearest kin. It brings us great joy that so many souls throughout the Bahá’í community are ready to thus distinguish themselves. But what gratifies us beyond this is the certain knowledge that victories will be won in the next five years by youth and adults, men and women, who may at present be wholly unaware of Baha’u’llah’s coming, much less acquaintedwith the “society-building power” of His Faith. For you possess a potent instrument for spiritually empowering the masses of humanity to take charge of their own destiny, aninstrument tempered in the crucible of experience. You know well, and have heard clearly, the call of Baha’u’llah: “I am the Sun of Wisdom and the Ocean of Knowledge. I cheer the faint and revive the dead. I am the guiding Light that illumineth the way. I am the royal Falcon on the arm of the Almighty. I unfold the drooping wings of every broken bird and start it on its flight.”
Our abiding prayers are with each of you.
[signed: The Universal House of Justice]
My jaw dropped at the simple fact that this statement contained NOTHING of substance whatsoever. No definite facts, no detailed plans, no warnings about what the future may hold.
What an incredible contrast I find to a recent statement by Rev. Peter Morales, the President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, where you can actually learn something and thus be inspired!
Holiday Message from UUA President Rev. Peter Morales
December 10, 2010
Our holiday rituals and traditions evoke memories—memories that link us to friends, to family, to our cultures of origin, to our most profound sense of who we are.
My early memories from growing up in San Antonio include church Christmas pageants and huge multi-generational parties with extended family. The dominant culture’s snowy images of a white Christmas, winter wonderlands, ice skating and Ebenezer Scrooge in London seemed odd to a child growing up in south Texas. My church always had an outdoor live nativity scene and sometimes it was chilly enough to require a light jacket under my shepherd’s costume.
Since my youth I have spent the holidays in many parts of the United States and even in foreign countries. (There is nothing quite like seeing Santa, reindeer, and fake snow in Thailand!) But regardless of religious background or culture, for those of us who have grown up with an end-of-year holiday tradition, the emotional tug is always there.
Traditions and rituals touch something very deep. The stories we hear and repeat become an essential part our story. They remind us of our need for one another, of the importance of compassion, of the centrality of hope, of our deep longing for peace.
One of the old traditions practiced in the San Antonio of my youth and across the Southwest is the Mexican custom of “Las Posadas.” In Spanish a “posada” is a place of lodging, a resting place, a place of shelter on a journey. This tradition, based on the biblical account of Mary and Joseph having to stay in a stable because there was no room in the inn, has special resonance for us today.
The practice of Las Posadas began almost five hundred years ago in colonial Mexico. A small group of people, some dressed as Mary and Joseph and carrying candles to light the way, go from house to house and sing songs asking for shelter. At each house they are turned away until, finally, someone lets them in. All of this is prearranged, of course. Then, in a true expression of Mexican culture, the people celebrate with music, dancing, lots of food, and a piñata. In some villages and neighborhoods, there is a different procession and a different stopping point each night for nine days, beginning December 16 and ending Christmas Eve.
This year—a year in which our nation is torn by anti-immigrant sentiment, a year in which I found myself protesting and even being arrested and jailed for opposing what I believe are racist anti-immigrant laws—the religious lessons of Las Posadas are even more striking. In a year that saw a record number of migrants die in our deserts, a story about helpless people being turned away profoundly touches my heart.
More importantly, like all good traditions, the lessons of Las Posadas go far beyond public policy debates. Each one of us, at some time in our lives, has been Mary or Joseph. Think of a time you needed shelter—physical or, more likely, emotional. Think of a time you needed compassion, needed someone simply to take you in and give you a place that was safe.
Recall, too, all the times you have been the person who turned away “Mary” or “Joseph.” I shudder to remember the many times I was too preoccupied, too insensitive, too busy, too self absorbed to offer the simple kindness of a sympathetic ear, a cup of tea, a little emotional shelter.
Recall, too, all the times you have been the kind-hearted innkeeper. Think of the times you were there, really there, for a child, a partner, a friend, even a stranger. Think of how precious those times were. When we allow the love that lives in our hearts to express itself, we are a blessing to those around us and a blessing to ourselves.
One of the great blessings of life in our Unitarian Universalist congregations is that here we learn to give and receive posada. We are there for one another. Together, we spread the warmth of compassion.
In this busy holiday time, the powerful religious lessons of Las Posadas transcend cultural boundaries. May we take time to see the need around us. May we open our hearts. May we give and receive shelter. Every act of kindness is offering a posada.
May this be a time rich in blessings and filled with joy.
Rev. Morales comes across as human to me. The Universal House of Justice looks like it is a giant computer, with no soul. Who benefits from that?