The Baha'i calendar has 19 months. Each month carries a special designation for meditation. In June, Baha'is celebrated Rahmant, Persian for mercy. Mercy is a virtue highly regarded in all religious writings. We are told that God's mercy is boundless, and that the hope for mankind is that we will all learn to comprehend its value and practice its various applications toward our neighbors, in the workplace, among nations of the world, and especially toward ourselves.
Today our lives seem filled with a multitude of "bones of contention". It's that little chip we carry on our shoulders as we walk to market. Listen to the media talking heads, as they steer us toward the trough of pain which feeds too much of our daily news. We are hypnotically drawn into the milieu. We become audience and participant in merciless acts.
In Nathaniel Hawthorne's allegorical novel, The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is subjected to social chastisement since she has borne a child out of wedlock. The village elders and the gossiping grapevine have a heyday. It is a town without mercy, and the villagers feel justified in demonstrating outward contempt since such behavior is clearly counter to the laws of the church. Yet we must remember it was Jesus who befriended Mary Magdalene, and while on the cross, forgave the thief his wrong, and assured him they would soon meet in Paradise.
Baha'u'llah tells a parable of a lover who had lost contact with his beloved. The grief of separation caused the lover to grow frantic and lose his desire to live. In a state of anxiety he left his house and wandered in the streets, unsure of what was to become of him. Shortly he was spied by watchmen who pursued him through the streets. In desparation and fearing for his life, the young man scaled a wall of imposing height. He lost his balance and fell into a garden. And there before his eyes, he beheld his beloved. Instantly the man praised the watchmen for guiding him into the presence of his beloved.
The moral of the story is that if the man had had vision in the beginning, he might have realized that the watchmen weren't images of danger, but heralds of salvation. Mercy is always just around the corner, hovering patiently near the edges of the pain in our lives, ready to save us from ourselves.
T.S. Eliot in his poem, Ash-Wednesday, pleads, "Teach us to sit still." We have the tools of our salvation in our hearts. If we watch with patience perhaps the bounty of mercy will lead us away from the current climate of militant aggression and guide us in the direction of sanity and reason.
Todd Oleson is a member of the Baha'i community in Walla Walla. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.