The Fast is the time for prayer, mediation, and critical examination of our lives to make sure our actions are in accordance with God’s Will for us. It is a time of alignment. It is not a time for us to beg the Creator to change His Will so that it suits our needs, but instead to change our will so that our actions are acceptable to God.
I memorized the 23rd Psalm at a very young age and it has stayed with me always. I’ll share in today’s reflection some of the wisdom in this verse. His Holiness Christ said that when “the Spirit of Truth shall come, He shall lead you to all truth.” We are so fortunate today to be able to receive that truth.
THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD
The Lord is our shepherd. A shepherd guides and protects. Individually we are powerless over a virus, a war, health conditions, the supply chains, or even acts of nature. So are you trusting in God to guide you or are you following in the footsteps of mortal man (and woman) and allowing the fear-based dogma of lack, untimely death, a shrinking pie, or a poverty mindset to stress or paralyze you? Are you going it alone or are you accepting the divine guidance always available to you? Are you silent and inwardly focused enough to hear the Divine speak to you or are you too inundated and overwhelmed by too much bad news? Although the 23rd Psalm from the Bible was shared over 2000 years ago, more recent guidance that Christ foretold of and shared here confirms the lasting truth of this wisdom today. We need not be confused, or feel alone or unsafe, for we are promised a Comforter and guide if we were obedient.
“And among the teachings of His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh is the oneness of the world of humanity; that all human beings are the sheep of God and He is the kind Shepherd. This Shepherd is kind to all the sheep, because He created them all, trained them, provided for them and protected them. There is no doubt that the Shepherd is kind to all the sheep and should there be among these sheep ignorant ones, they must be educated; if there be children, they must be trained until they reach maturity; if there be sick ones, they must be cured. There must be no hatred and enmity, for as by a kind physician these ignorant, sick ones should be treated.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 285)
I SHALL NOT WANT
Wanting is a strange emotion. It focuses on what we DON’T HAVE instead of WHAT WE DO HAVE. It presumes that we do not have something we think we need and thus we are never content with the moment. It also ignores the reality that we are not alone and that God has already supplied all of our needs; we just need to follow the Shepherd in faith to the “green pastures” ahead to experience them. In reality, in this moment, most people have all that they need. But, because they fear the next moment, they forfeit the joy in the current moment and the opportunity to be grateful. Change only occurs in the current moment, and worrying about the future and regretting or angry about something in the past causes many to forfeit precious opportunities. And, since a grateful heart attracts blessings, they miss out on the opportunity to attract more which makes them to continue to “want!” In the Hidden Words, Baha’u’llah exhorts us:
O friends! Prefer not your will to Mine, never desire that which I have not desired for you, and approach Me not with lifeless hearts, defiled with worldly desires and cravings.
In the long obligatory prayer, we are instructed to desire or want only what God wants and to love only what God loves:
O Thou the Desire of the world and the Beloved of the nations! Thou seest me turning toward Thee, and rid of all attachment to anyone save Thee, and clinging to Thy cord, through whose movement the whole creation hath been stirred up. I am Thy servant, O my Lord, and the son of Thy servant. Behold me standing ready to do Thy will and Thy desire, and wishing naught else except Thy good pleasure.
HE MAKETH ME TO LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES
Sometimes we have to be made to just be still. Once we were are all so busy rushing here and there, that we never had time to be still, connect with those we love, or to just lie down. Just as a parent has to sometimes MAKE a child brush their teeth, eat their vegetables, or lie down and go to sleep, (because they know what is best for the child), sometimes we too are given circumstances that make us see that our current pastures are not green, verdant, and healthy but brown, dying, and unhealthy. The point is sometimes we have to be made to do what is best for us and only later will we realize the lesson.
Every flock of the sheep of God which is protected under the shadow of the Divine Shepherd will not be scattered, but when the sheep are dispersed from the flock, they will necessarily be caught and torn by the wolf. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to flock together! It is incumbent upon you to be united! It is incumbent upon you to expose yourselves to the fragrances of God at every time and moment! (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 285)
Now, continuing with the analogy of the sheep to teach us a human lesson, the Shepherd knows where the green pastures are and leads the willing sheep to it. The key is that they have to be willing to follow. Those that wander away make themselves willing prey for wolves and also subject themselves to possible starvation. BUT, If they choose to follow, they will be protected and led to all that they need. In the green pastures, they will be able to eat their fill and lie down afterwards in safety. Lying down implies that they feel safe and protected and can rest in peace.
HE RESTORETH MY SOUL
This was the verse I reflected most on today. When the whole world is facing one common fear, a deadly virus, we know that faith, surrender, and letting go is the only option. “He restoreth my soul”, for I feel that my soul is being restored by leaps and bounds. The Fast does that for me and like nature, I’m being prepared to greet the Spring in a few days. Restore means to return to a former state.
Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing [God] hath shed the light of one of His names, and made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes. Upon the reality of man, however, He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self. Alone of all created things man hath been singled out for so great a favor, so enduring a bounty. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 27.
We were all born pure and holy at birth, wanting and needing nothing that God did not supply. I have been fasting since March 2nd, and I feel renewed, refreshed, and reinvigorated. When you spend time in prayerful meditation, seeking only to do God’s Will, to be of service to the world, and having complete certitude that you are being purified, guided, and refilled, it’s a wonderful feeling. We are told that if we Ask, we will receive. I asked, I received!
HE LEADETH ME IN THE PATHs OF RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE
We each are gifted with a consciousness, a heart, and a conscience. The Holy Writings from each of God’s Messengers were sent down to teach us the right way. We are even told to first seek this kingdom of God and His righteous as the primary goals in our lives, and then all other things will be given to us.
The divine Manifestations since the day of Adam have striven to unite humanity so that all may be accounted as one soul. The function and purpose of a shepherd is to gather and not disperse his flock. The prophets of God have been divine shepherds of humanity. They have established a bond of love and unity among mankind, made scattered peoples one nation and wandering tribes a mighty kingdom.
They have laid the foundation of the oneness of God and summoned all to universal peace. All these holy, divine Manifestations are one. They have served one God, promulgated the same truth, founded the same institutions and reflected the same light. Their appearances have been successive and correlated; each one has announced and extolled the one who was to follow and all laid the foundation of reality. (Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 14)
Abdul-Baha wrote: This day is the day of truth and righteousness! This day is the day of conciliation and beatitude! This day is the day of awakening and enkindlement! (SOW – Star of the West, Star of the West – 4)
I WILL FEAR NO EVIL
Bahaullah warns us that we are surrounded by darkness, but reminds us of how we need not fear, for we are not alone.
At all times I am near unto thee, but thou art ever far from Me . . . While there is yet time, return, and lose not thy chance. Bahá’u’lláh, The Persian Hidden Words 21
I pray that everyone has a wonderful day, stays safe, and realizes that you already have everything that you need and that Divine guidance and protection is always there. We are spiritual beings just having a material experience and our souls are safe from this particular virus. When we focus with gratitude and faith on what we have, eventually “our cup will run over” and “goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of your life.”
Let the fear of no one dismay thee. Trust in the Lord, thy God, for He is sufficient unto whosoever trusteth in Him. He, verily, shall protect thee, and in Him shalt thou abide in safety. Bahá’u’lláh, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 60
YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS! Fear is simply the absence of faith. Fear dissolves, shrinks, fades, and disappears in the presence of true faith. Fear and faith cannot reside in the same heart. You’ve got to choose one or the other. While fear appears powerful in the garb of the big bad wolf, fear in reality has no power over you unless you believe in it more than faith in the Shepherd guiding you through the valley.
THOU ART WITH ME AND I WILL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER
“Thou art with me.” Since we can experience a bit of heaven while still on earth, if we live in the Spirit, perhaps we can be heartened by a glimpse of how it might feel to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. We were created to work toward the betterment of the world as we serve others in the way we wish to have our Creator bless us. All we need do, is find a need and fill it. Many are in need; exercise your opportunity to serve! I will conclude with this quote from ‘The Hidden Words.’
O SON OF SPIRIT! I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting. Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah