A meek Brown Man From Goa – Cry, Bathe and Smile

Cry

Cry

Few months before the release of the book, there was a buzz around regarding the investigation of a non-Catholic, about Blessed Joseph Vaz. For me personally, it sounded like another trumpet blowing, “We’re trying to make Bl. Joseph Vaz a Saint!“. That’s a phrase I’ve heard since the beginning of the last year. For some weird reason, unlike other Sri Lankan Catholics, who were bragging about his work, I was simply not interested. Everyone is a Saint, so if he has done something good, he’ll be rewarded in Heaven, why run behind a “Saint” prefix for his name? To add to my disinterested spirit, last year we had a module at the Theologate regarding Bl. Joseph Vaz and his contribution to the Faith and country. Nope, neither did that get my spirits high about the guy.

I got this book last week and first thing I usually do when I get a book is to read the Cover. The back of the book mentioned about the author Kusum Waidyaratne and his research areas, Para Human Archaeology, Ethnoarchaeology, Rheology, Architectonic, DNA. Those words sounded music to my ears, because I fancy all the high tech science and geeky stuff (NOT fiction, but Realizing fiction with Reality).

Bathe

BatheRead the first page, turned to the next… kept on doing it for minutes, hours and before I even knew I had read the first 10 chapters of the book and wanted to keep on going. It was addictive, the more I read, the more I wanted to dig in and dig deeper. I also did some research on my own with regard to the scientific areas touched in the book to see if, what I was reading was reality or the author was trying to fool me into something.

I don’t want to spoil the fun, but I’ll give a sneak peak into the book. It’s primarily about Bl. Joseph Vaz. And if you don’t know who that is, let me help you out. Ask a priest, catechism teacher or the final resort Mr. Google. If you’re a Sri Lankan and you don’t know him, high time you relearned history. And if you’re Sri Lankan plus a Catholic and don’t know about him, then shame on you!

As you go on reading, it will unravel the reality of this great personality, Bl. Joseph Vaz and his immense contribution to a foreign soil. Done only with one intention in his mind, that is to do his Father’s will. Every word of the book is a prayer, a step towards a strengthening journey of Faith. You can take my word on this, because though I’m a Theology student, I’m not a hard core prayer person. The word “Prayer” gives me jitters. But today, I’ve come to realize that Prayers are a constant chitter chatter with God. Speaking to Him, Crying with Him, Laughing with Him and even fighting and insulting Him and asking for forgiveness. Giving the truth of your Heart, that is the only Mantra.

The best example of such an intimate relationship is the one that Bl. Joseph Vaz had with God the Father. This book made me realize that we all are Bl. Joseph Vazs inside. The difference is, some have discovered themselves and people like you and I keep orbiting our day to day painstaking lives, looking for help outside. Our help is right here, within our grip, but we don’t see it. We ignore it and go venturing into other modes to find solutions. And if we do know it’s there and reach it, there’s always that thorn of doubt pricking constantly.

The story of the book flows on two rivers and they meet at a confluence. One stream carries the tales of BJV (Bl. Joseph Vaz) and the other speaks about a married gentleman named Wishwa, who is a father of two and is struggling with his own life’s journey. The two stories run parallel. Whatever happened to BJV few centuries ago, happens to Wishwa today. Similarly you can also see a comparison of human effort vs God’s guidance.

Few Examples from the Book:

  • Persecution by the Dutch soldiers // Imprisonment or Wishwa being attacked by some goons.
  • BJV praises God during crisis // Wishwa cursing the divine

The book also uses the Word Of God, Sacred Scripture quotations to form the foundation of Faith. It comes handy as a literary technique to give light to the readers, a glimpse of hope towards a better fulfillment of the story.

…if you believe you will see the glory of God

~John 11, 40

The initial chapters, speak of the Journey of BJV and only in Chapter 20 you get to know about the beginning years of BJV. The essence of these chapters is, the author portrays a heart of a mother. A 3D view is given with 3 mothers playing the roles. BJV’s mother, Wishwa’s mother and the crest, Mother Mary – The Mother of everyone.

The book also touches areas which provide clear cut evidence that Catholicism existed in our land before the arrival of the European invaders. It also shows that the era where Buddhism was in a declining phase, it was not because of the Catholics.

The book portrays the miracles of BJV, his intercessions, crucial journeys, prayerful life and most importantly, how loud his silence was and is.

I found three interesting themes run across the story.

  • Cry

Starting with a sob it progresses towards a loud cry. It is revealing one’s true self, confession, helplessness.

  • Bathe

With the act of taking a bath, where the characters felt refreshed, cleansed. In Christianity, this is a sign of purification or sanctification.

  • Smile

A sign of hospitality, love, care.

The book also reveals details about BJV’s tomb and what is disappointing is that, intense details about him are not found in Kandy. One would get to know the real reason behind this. But if there were records, I’m sure it would speak volumes about BJV.

Smile

smileIf the Bible is a book that contains mystery, comedy, romance, thriller, action, tragedy, history, science, etc; Then ගෝවෙන් අමුත්තෙක් ඇවිත් – A meek Brown Man From Goa will similarly fit into most of the literary genres. Unlike fiction it wouldn’t provide you with a temporary mental satisfaction. These pages would help you face your biggest fear, LIFE! It is a live manifestation of Divine Providence. For sure it will show you at least a ray of Hope.

Instead of learning about saints who are foreign to our land, it is important that we as Sri Lankan Christians, give credit to the valuable service and sacrifices of BJV. If it was not for him I would’ve not been able to address my God in my mother tongue. If it was not for him I would’ve not been a Catholic, the Church would’ve died decades ago. As Sri Lankan Christians it is our duty to recognize this great servant of God and cherish his work.

I tried this interpersonal formula that I learned from my new friend BJV. It was yesterday, when Asia was hit with an 8.9 magnitude earthquake. The moment I got the news, only thing that ran across my mind was, “What would Blessed Joseph Vaz do?” Without delay, I went to my room and started “Praying“. I think this was after many months or years, that I prayed so intensely. I called Mother Mary and BJV to come for our mediation. Within few hours, the news said that the earthquake was horizontal, hence it was less likely that a Tsunami will occur. I believe that this happened because of the intercession of Mother Mary and BJV. I’m sure millions of us prayed for a miracle and we got it.

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“Love Your ENEMIES!” ~ The Veil Unveiled

Joy and Brightness of Sad and Dark Gethsemane

Take this cup AWAY from me, but not what I will but what you will.

~Mark 14, 36

Honest opinion, I find this statement coming from someone who’s a coward. But then again, it’s coming from Jesus, right? As usual, the real meaning ought to be encrypted in it. Jesus was a non-violent person throughout. He was also 100% human and 100% Divine. He foresaw the storm of violence that was heading His way and He wanted to avoid it by all means. But then God acts in mysterious ways, He had a different plan. He was gonna bring a Great Victory through the Non-Violence reaction of His Son. At Gethsemane Jesus, prays, this can also be incorporated into our lives. He also learnt to surrender to the will of His Father from His mother, where she first gave her consent to God, when she was told that she was going to give birth to Jesus and obediently accepted God’s will.

PRAY before you ACT, to know the will of your Father. And I’m not talking about reading a book with flowery prayers printed on it. A real time conversation with your Father. Tell Him how you feel, if your angry, sad, happy or jealous. Yes He knows it… but He prefers to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Then most definitely you’ll have a better view and find the correct solution.

Another instance was when the Disciples could not stay awake with Jesus and pray. Similarly, we also shut our eyes to the unjust things happening around us. Or ignore the slightest wastage that occur, thinking how can I being one person change the world?

According to Dear, if you take the situation at Gethsemane, there are two acts of Violence present in it.

  1. The Betrayal Mark 14, 45

    He came and immediately went over to him and said, “Rabbi.” And he kissed him.

    Robert Bly, a famous poet once said that “The only way to become wise is through betrayal”. Likewise, in this situation, Jesus knew about His betrayal and beyond that He even knew the betrayer. But still He did not withdraw Himself or react violently towards His betrayer.

  2. A bystander striking the High Priest Matthew 26, 52

    Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.

    Jesus had His own gang, so for sure, He could’ve called in for a war. A battle of the divine vs mortals. But He did not do it. Instead, He make everyone realize that weapons only bring destruction and they cannot bring back life from the dead.

Sanhedrin Trial and Mockery

In the following instances we see how Jesus was being ridiculed. He was bulleyed, but yet He didn’t retaliate.

Some took the stand and testified falsely against him...

~ Mark 14, 57

Some began to spit on him. They blindfolded him and struck him…

~ Mark 14, 65

Despite all the humiliation faced, he only did one thing which is a non-violent reaction to the violence He faced. SILENCE is Golden.

But he was silent and answered nothing.

~Mark 14, 61

But how long can Silence be the solution? Shouldn’t one speak up for the injustice He is facing or witnessing another going through? In Sinhala and Tamil there’s a proverb which says, the one who keeps bowing his head while he’s being struck is also a fool and the one who keeps striking while the other bows down is also a fool. Then how did Jesus react?

If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong;

but if I have spoken rightly,

why do you strike me?

~John 18, 23

He questioned why He was being treated like this. Likewise, if you take a look at your own lives, how many times do we fear to react and speak when injustice is happening every second around us? We are afraid of what others will think about us, fear of life, position, reputation.

The Violent Crucifixion

Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.

~Luke 23, 34

After suffering an unbearable amount of agony and pain, Jesus asks for forgiveness on behalf of those who persecuted Him. This reminds His saying on forgiving 77 times, which is an innumerable amount. Therefore have no boundary set for your patience and love.

 “Forgive your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

~Matthew 5, 44

 I have shown below a comparison on what Jesus could have said and done opposed to what He really said and did. (Cited from Dear’s articles and personal insertions)

What Jesus Could have said and done? What Jesus Actually said and did?
“Break their bodies for me!” “This is my body, broken for you.”
“Shed their blood for me!” “This is my blood, shed for you.”
“If my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews,” ~ John 18, 36 “My kingdom does not belong to this world…” ~ John 18, 36

Jesus according to Mahatma Gandhi

 “Jesus was the most active resister known perhaps to history. This was nonviolence par excellence

 “A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.

 The same Gandhi later on said the following as well,

 “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

 What made Gandhi say this? Is it the same Christ that we encounter in the Gospels, whom we are following. Or like those who during the Exodus idolized God as a Golden Calf, are we idolizing different images of Christ, which are moulded into a framework that suits us?

The Victorious End – The Resurrection

 If it was not for the Resurrection, none of us would’ve been Christians. This is the ultimate victory of God where He proved that Active Non-Violence is the only solution against Violence.

 “They conquered Him by the blood of the Lamb

~Revelation 12, 11

The best teaching that can be followed in order to react to violence with Non-Violence is, the Prayer of Peace bySt. Francis of Asisi. This prayer is the definition of real peace.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

“Love Your ENEMIES” ~ The Veil

Aquinas University College has been conducting a short course on the topic Death of the Messiah for the Laity and the Religious to deepen their knowledge on the Passion and Death of Christ according to the Gospel of Mark. Yesterday was the last class and three of the final year Theology students had to do three presentations on the Pastoral/ Spiritual Implications of the Passion and Death of Christ to the lives of the Laity and the Religious.

I was second in command, so I had to gel with the flow of the first presenter and fit in the third presenter’s idea as well. Ms. Romany Rasquinho, the first presenter spoke on the different characters found in the Passion of Christ. Like Judas, Peter, Mary, Women of Jerusalem, Simon of Cyrene, etc; and which role would be a best fit for us. She mainly focused on Joseph of Aramathea at the end. Mrs. Rosanne Fernando, the third in line spoke on Burial and Resurrection and included a new reflection on the Resurrection of the Living.

Drawing the spotlight back to me, what was I left to talk about? Pretty much nothing. Approximately for 2 nights I was breaking my head on what to talk at the session and was left clueless. It was a similar thinking crisis I went through with deciding on my Final Year Project for the Computing degree. Well better late than never, out of the blue when I was at one of the classes, a topic struck me. Active Non-Violence. Well this is what my thesis is on, so why not do a speech on this. I wanted to do something unique and novel, but this was a bit of a risk. Connecting Active Non-Violence and the Passion of Christ had to be a gamble, because no sane person would find a connection between the two.

Being the risk taker, I grabbed this opportunity and did a bit of research. I came a cross some of the writings of John Dear SJ who is a pioneer of something called Theology of Non-Violence (Heard that the first time when I was doing the research). He basically speaks how Jesus reacted non-violently to the violent Passion he faced. Going down his line of thought, I based my presentation on the Non Violent Reaction of Jesus to His Violent Passion and Death. I catered to the Human Being Within You!

Before stepping into the Passion and Death, remember the days that Jesus walked among men and performed miracles? Well He uttered a particular phrase which is not mentioned during His Passion. But I think that the Passion is the enactment of that phrase. Preaching put into Practice.

Love Your Enemies

and

Pray for those who Persecute You

~Matthew 5, 44

Since the Old Testament is the basic foundation for the New Testament, the prophecy of a non-violent Messiah can be found in Zechariah 9, 9-10. Where he speaks of a Just Saviour who will Proclaim Peace to the Nations. Peace is not the mere absence of war. Taking the current context of our country, Sri Lanka, just because the war is over does that mean we have peace in our land? Certainly not! There is sorrow and pain within the mother who lost her child illicitly during the war and is still finding answers as to why her child was brutally killed. There is tension between the two neighbours, where one is a Sinhala and the other is a Tamil, each of them hate the other because of their race.

Dear presents a five fold aspect of Jesus as the Non-Violent Messiah according to the Gospels.

Pentagon
I organized my presentation according to a particular schema. Since it’s the Markan year, I organized the presentation according to the topics covered in the short course.

  1. Gethsemane – Prayer and Agony
  2. Sanhedrin Trial and Mockery
  3. Crucifixion
  4. The Ultimate Victory – The Resurrection