JoAnn Borovicka

JoAnn's Blog

Welcome to my blog! Here you will find short reflections, connections I've noticed that I'd like to pursue in future research, and various items that have caught my attention related to Bahá'i studies and Christian scholarship.


You are welcome to send me your comments at JoAnnBorovicka@gmail.com.

By JoAnn Borovicka, Apr 1 2017 07:45PM

In the Gospel of Mark, a quick search shows at least 17 incidents where the disciples not only misunderstand but also betray, desert, deny, argue, are stricken with fear, and disobey Christ (references below). And what I find most fascinating is that after this long string of disconnects and human failures, in chapter 16 the Risen Christ chastises the disciples for their lack of faith and stubbornness one last time and THEN tells them to “Go into all the world. Preach the good news to everyone.” Mark 16:15

To me, the message becomes something like ‘Pick up your fears, your failures, all of your human weaknesses and go teach the Cause of God anyway. Divine forgiveness and power are greater than human faults.’

In the Tablets of the Divine Plan, when ‘Abdu’l-Baha tells the Baha’is to travel to teach the Faith He refers to Christ’s instructions to His disciples. ‘Abdu’l-Baha states, “It is also mentioned in the Gospel: Travel ye to all parts of the world and give ye the glad tidings of the appearance of the Kingdom of God” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, no. 2.3). The context of that biblical mandate—that it comes to the disciples after a long string of disconnects and epic fails—is, I think, important for Baha’is to keep in mind. When one considers the context of the biblical reference it is like ‘Abdu’l-Baha is saying, ‘With all your fears, failures, and faults, travel to all parts of the world and give the glad tidings anyway. Divine forgiveness and power are greater than human faults.’

Disciples faults and human failures:

1. “Why don’t you understand?” March 4:13

2. “Have you no faith?” Mark 4:40

3. Disciples “hearts are hardened” Mark 6:52

4. Disciples “fail to understand” Mark 7:18

5. “Do you still not perceive or understand?” Their eyes fail to see, ears fail to hear, they don’t

remember, don’t understand, their hearts are hardened, Mark 8:17-18

6. to Peter: “Get thee behind me Satan.” Mark 8:33

7. Disciples don’t understand, are afraid Mark 9:32

8. Chastised for arguing about which disciples is “first” Mark 9:34

9. Jesus indignant when disciples kept children away Mark 10:13-14

10. Disciples are perplexed, blind Mark 10:24

11. Arguing over who will be “first” Mark 10:41

12. Judas betrayal story Mark 14:10

13. Christ to disciples: “You will all become deserters.” Mark 14:27

14. Disciples failed to stay awake in Garden 3 times, Mark 14:34-41

15. All of the disciples “deserted Him and fled.” Mark 14:50

16. Peter denies Christ 3 x, Mark 14:66-72

17. Peter and others “would not believe” the reality of the Risen Christ, Mark 16:11-13

18. The Risen Christ chastises the disciples for their lack of faith and stubbornness Mark 16:14

By JoAnn Borovicka, Sep 5 2016 02:03PM

In the March 8, 1917 Tablet to the United States and Canada, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states that the “prosperity of the world of humanity is dependent upon the organization and promotion of the collective centers” [TDP 14.3]. He Defines “collective centers” as those points of interest and alliance that are “conducive to association and unity between the children of men” such as alliances based on national, political, cultural, and intellectual interests [TDP 14.3]. Moreover, He states that the most important collective center, the only center that is not accidental and temporary, and the only center that “overcomes and includes all the other collective centers” is the “Collective Center of the sacred religions” [TDP 14.3]. He defines this eternal Collective Center as “no other than the spirit of the divine teachings”: "Now strive ye that the Collective Center of the sacred religions—for the inculcation of which all the Prophets were manifested and which is no other than the spirit of the divine teachings—be spread in all parts of America." [TDP 14.11]

‘Abdu’l-Bahá praises the unifying and educative effects of previous Dispensations and emphasizes that the essential task at this time is the “the promotion of divine teachings which are the foundations of the holy religions” in order that “affinity between the hearts of the world of humanity” may be established [TDP no. 14.9]. Not only does ‘Abdu’l-Bahá set this task, He models promotion of the spirit of the divine teachings of the sacred religions in the Tablets themselves by integrating verses, images, and stories from the Holy Bible in His teachings. For example, in the following passage ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sets out a call to action in the language of the Bible:

Every one of the important souls must arise, blowing over all parts of America the breath of life, conferring upon the people a new spirit, baptizing them with the fire of the love of God, the water of life, and the breaths of the Holy Spirit so that the second birth may become realized. For it is written in the Gospel: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” [TDP no. 14.6]

In another Tablet He uses biblical terms in His description of the desired qualities of Bahá’í teachers:

As regards the teachers, they must completely divest themselves from the old garments and be invested with a new garment. According to the statement of Christ, they must attain to the station of rebirth—that is, whereas in the first instance they were born from the womb of the mother, this time they must be born from the womb of the world of nature. . . . They must be baptized with the water of life, the fire of the love of God and the breaths of the Holy Spirit; be satisfied with little food, but take a large portion from the heavenly table. . . . They must make the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the extinguished one enkindled and set aglow, and the dead quickened. [TDP no. 13.7]

Most of the terms in the two passages above represent much-loved biblical images: heaven as the source of divine teachings (John 3:31); the Holy Spirit as a blowing breath or wind (John 3:8); realization of the life of the spirit as a second birth (John 3:3-5); baptism by water and fire (John 3:22-23); changing the old garment for the new (Luke 5:36); helping the blind see, the deaf hear, and the dead live (Matthew 11:5). Abdu’l-Bahá, the Perfect Exemplar, lovingly embraces biblical stories and terminologies and focuses on their spiritual meaning to the degree that the biblical terms themselves become vehicles for His instruction—there is no division between the nomenclature of the Bible and Bahá’í guidance. There are many such examples throughout the Tablets of the Divine Plan; in fact, every Tablet contains at least one biblical reference. Thus, the Tablets themselves are examples of how to engage with biblical Scripture in order to promote the “Collective Center of the sacred religions.”