Saint Joseph Vaz was born on April 21, 1651 in the village of Benaulim, Goa, India.
In 2012, Rev. Fr. Anthony Hemantha Peiris of the Diocese of Badulla, Sri Lanka, wrote the Lyrics in Sinhala and also composed the music of the hymn sung in the following video to commemorate the birth of the Saint of India and Sri Lanka.
Rev. Fr. Michael Rajendram Pillai of the Diocese of Galle translated the lyrics were Tamil.
The hymn is sung in both Sinhala and Tamil languages in the same Melody.
My article “Actions speak louder than words!” has evoked a good response from my readers. One person after reading the article has asked: “So what is your action?”
This is my reply:
Look at this (sinful) woman. She has come to Jesus and found in him her Saviour. She wetted his feet with her tears and then wiped them with her hair. Look at verse Luke 7:50, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
It is our faith that saves us. We either look at this woman and say, “Thank you Lord, I am not like her,” then the question becomes, “Has your faith saved you?”
But if our response is “Lord, have mercy on me,” then the good news is mercy is freely given.
Jesus is here and He will always be wherever we are or who or whatever we choose to be. This woman knew Jesus was there to forgive her and she loved Him for that. In the same way, I know Jesus is forever here to forgive me, no matter who I am or what I have done. I know he will forgive me.
Most of us do not get over our afflictions and then go to Jesus, rather we approach Him and He removes them, and He also gives us something else to live for.
My action in life has always been “do more than what I am paid for,” like the woman wiping the feet of Jesus with her tears, wiping it with her hair, and anointing it with perfumed ointment.
There is nothing in this world we could ever do to make up for the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Yet, most of us are not called to do anything. So, most of us forget that it is easy after being Christians for a while to become a Pharisee and point a “holier than thou” finger at others.
In the gospel of Luke, the story of the pardoning of a sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50) illustrates the axiom that “actions speak louder than words.”
A Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to dine with him. On entering the house of the Pharisee, Jesus reclined at the table, the normal posture of guests at a banquet.
On learning that Jesus had come to the house of the Pharisee, a woman of that town who lived a sinful life, came there with an alabaster jar of perfumed ointment.
Weeping, she fell down at the feet of Jesus and wet them with her tears. Then, she wiped his feet with her hair, kissed them and anointed them with the perfumed ointment.
When the Pharisee saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what sort of woman she is – that she is a sinner.”
Jesus understood his thoughts and said, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” Simon said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other owed fifty.”
At that time, one denarius was the normal daily wage of a laborer.
“Neither of them had the money to repay his loan, so the moneylender forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one whose larger debt was forgiven.”
Jesus said, “You have judged rightly.”
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water to wash my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. As my host, you did not greet me with a kiss, but this woman, from the time she entered this house, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not place oil on my head, but she anointed my feet with perfumed ointment.”
According to the Christian canonical gospels, Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days in the desert, where he encountered the temptations by Satan. So, the solemn religious observance of Lent originated as a mirroring this event. Hence, Christians fast 40 days as preparation for the Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection of Christ. In Latin, Lent is referred to by the term Quadragesima (meaning “fortieth”), in reference to the fortieth day before Easter.
Today is Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting. In Western Christianity, it marks the start of the 40-day period of fasting, the first day in the season of Lent.
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing the ashes made from palm branches that were blessed on Palm Sunday of the previous year, and placing them ceremonially on the heads of the participants. The Ash is either sprinkled over their heads or more often a visible cross is marked on their foreheads to the accompaniment of the words “
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing the ashes made from palm branches that were blessed on Palm Sunday of the previous year, and placing them ceremonially on the heads of the participants. The Ash is either sprinkled over their heads or more often a visible cross is marked on their foreheads to the accompaniment of the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” based on Genesis 3:19
By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
In Western Christianity, during Lent, every Sunday is regarded as a feast day to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on a Sunday, and so fasting is considered inappropriate on that day. And so, Christians fast from Monday to Saturday (6 days) for 6 weeks and from Wednesday to Saturday (4 days) in the preceding week, thus making up the number of 40 days.
Many Western Christians, including Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans, and Presbyterians observe Ash Wednesday. However, not all Catholics observe Ash Wednesday. Eastern Catholic Churches, do not count Holy Week as part of Lent, and they begin the penitential season on Monday before Ash Wednesday called the Clean Monday. Catholics following the Ambrosian Rite begin it on the First Sunday in Lent.
Throughout the Latin Church, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and in the Maronite Catholic Church, the Ashes are blessed and ceremonially distributed at the start of Lent. In the Catholic Ambrosian Rite, this is done at the end of Sunday Mass or on the following day.
Here is today’s reading in the Church for Ash Wednesday. It is the continuation of the sermon on the mount. Jesus warns against doing good in order to be seen and gives three examples. In each, the conduct of the hypocrites is contrasted with that demanded of the disciples.
Teaching about Alms-giving
[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
- (Mathew 6: 1-4)
Teaching about Prayer
When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This is how you are to pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors;
and do not subject us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.
If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.
- Matthew 6:5–15
Teaching about Fasting
When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.
EeVeRa, is short for Erode Venkata Ramasamy (September 17, 1879 – December 24, 1973). He was a social activist, politician and businessman in Tamilnadu, India.
An array of regional political parties under the canopy “Dravidian” dominate the current political arena in Tamilnadu. These parties trace their origins and ideologies to the Dravidian movement launched by EeVeRa.
The Indian population is still classified as Aryans or Dravidians based on language families, but genetic research does not confirm this. According to this classification the North Indian languages are Aryan, and the South Indian languages are Dravidian.
The term ‘Aryan’ as a race was first propounded by Friedrich Max Müller. He was a German-born philologist and Orientalist, connected with the East India Company. He lived and studied in Britain for most of his life. In 1853, he conjectured that a group of people called Aryans had invaded India in 1500 BC. The British colonialists of the period and Thomas Macaulay, a member of the Supreme Council of India, supported Max Mülle’s hypothesis. Macaulay asserted that there was a need to develop a breed of Indians “who would be Indian by blood and colour, but Western by morals and intellect”.
During the British rule, the former Indian state of Madras Presidency consisted of almost all regions of today’s Tamilnadu and parts of Andhra Pradesh. At that time, the British, and the Indians schooled in the British system, opined that the Dravidian languages were inferior to the Aryan languages. Sanskrit, a classical language of the Aryan group, was considered sacred.
In the early 20th century, the Brahmins occupied the highest strata in the Indian caste system. They dominated the political scene in South India. Though only 3% of the population in Madras Presidency, they held 60 to 79% of the positions in major government departments.
At that time, many non-Brahmin leaders in the south asserted that Brahmins were Aryans as defined by Max Müller and hence non-natives. They claimed the Brahmins had occupied positions in the government that rightly belonged to the people indigenous to the region. This claim compounded with an antipathy towards Sanskrit spurred on the animosity against the Brahmins. This hostility directed at the Brahmins gave rise to Dravidian politics in Madras Presidency.
The Justice Party
In 1917, Sir Pitti Theagaraya Chetty, Dr. T. M. Nair, O. Thanikachalam Chettiar, and Dr. C. Natesa Mudaliar founded the Justice Party to represent the non-Brahmins in the Madras Presidency. It soon became the main political alternative to the Indian National Congress (INC) in the Madras Presidency.
In 1920, the Justice Party won the first direct elections in the Madras presidency and formed the government. During the next 17 years, it formed four out of the five governments and was in power for 13 years. In the 1937 election, it lost to the Congress and never recovered afterwards.
The Justice Party, by its many controversial activities, seemed isolated in Indian politics.
Its anti-Brahmin attitude shaped many of its ideas and policies.
It opposed the appointment of Brahmins in the civil service.
It was against the participation of Brahmins in politics.
It campaigned against the non-cooperation movement in the presidency.
It was at odds with M. K. Gandhi, primarily due to his praise for Brahminism.
Its mistrust of the Brahmin-dominated INC, led the Justice Party to adopt a hostile stand towards the Indian independence movement.
Though the Justice Party pledged to represent all non-Brahmins, it eventually lost the support of Muslims and Untouchables. They accused the Justice Party of serving the interests of only a few castes such as the Vellalars, Mudaliars, Pillais, Balija Naidus, Beri Chettis, Kapus and Kammas.
The Self-Respect Movement
E.V. Ramasamy was born in Erode, Madras Presidency to a wealthy family of Balijas. The Balija is a social group that spread across the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala.
At a young age, EeVeRa witnessed many incidents of racial, caste and gender discrimination. He married his first wife, Nagammai when he was 19.
EeVeRa was a member of the Indian National Congress (INC) party. In 1925, he broke away from INC and formed the Self Respect Movement or the Dravidian Movement. The Self-Respect Movement claimed to promote interests similar to the Justice Party. In addition EeVeRa proposed the creation of an independent state called Dravida Nadu, comprising the four states of South India: Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamilnadu.
Nagammai, died in 1933.
In 1938, the Justice Party came under the leadership of E. V. Ramaswamy and his Self-Respect Movement.
In 1944, EeVeRa withdrew the Justice Party from electoral politics. He changed the name of the party to Dravidar Kazhagam, a social organization.
Dravidar Kazhagam originally strived for social equality by eradicating the ills of the existing caste system including untouchability. Later on, Dravidar Kazhagam wanted to end the domination of North India on the politics and economy of the Madras Presidency. And, on a grander scale Dravidar Kazhagam wanted to create a “Dravida Nadu” (Dravidian nation) and do away with the Madras Presidency.
Thus, the roots of Dravidar Kazhagam lie with the Justice party and the Self-Respect Movement.
Dravidar Kazhagam originally strived for social equality, and later wanted to end the domination of North India on the politics and economy of the Madras Presidency.
The Dravidian politics of Dravidar Kazhagam found support only in Tamilnadu.
EeVeRa married for a second time in July 1948. His second wife, Maniammai, continued Periyar’s social work after his death in 1973.
I came across a snippet in Tamil on Facebook, alleged to Periyar. It impressed me, and I rewrote it in English. It is not a direct translation.
One Who Uses God as a Weapon Is a Terrorist!
There are no gods! Gods do not exist! The person who preaches gods is a Philistine. One who believes in gods is a simpleton. One who spreads the idea of gods is a charlatan.
1. How did gods come into existence?
2. How did gods get an image?
3. And what need is there for a god to have a human form?
4. How did so many gods come to exist?
5. How did these gods get wives, children, and lovers?
6. After that, how did the wives, children and lovers become gods?
7. How did these gods get houses, jewellery, clothing, food, etc.?
8. Why did these gods wage war against humans and other creatures, and why kill them?
9. How did these gods get a rank on a scale of importance?
10. Aside from these, how did wells, pools, ponds, rivers etc., become gods?
11. How did these wells, ponds, pools, rivers get a varying range of godlike powers?
12. How much time, money, and effort do humans spend on these entities they call gods?
13. Just compare yourself with the once naked Aryans that ate vegetables and creatures in the raw, and cohabited with their own mothers, daughters, and sisters regardless of how they were related. See how they have attained intellectual progress now! What is your state today?
13. Compare yourself with the once naked Aryans who ate vegetables and creatures, raw, and cohabited with their mothers, daughters, and sisters regardless of relationship. See how great their intellectual progress is; and, what is your status now?
Father Tony Currer (41) leads Vatican’s first-ever cricket team. According to a released team list, seven Indians dominate the team and Father Curer is its only Englishman. Also, in the team are two Sri Lankans and one Pakistani. All members of Vatican’s Saint Peter’s Cricket Club are young seminarians training for the priesthood, many of them aged between 24 and 41.
Preparations for the cricket club began around a year ago due to the enthusiasm of Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy, who said the initiative was an example of “sporting diplomacy”.
Pope Francis, born in Argentina is an avid football fan, but knows little about cricket. He blessed the Vatican’s “underdog” cricket team that will be facing a formidable Church of England XI during their maiden foreign tour to England dubbed “The Light of Faith tour“. The Holy Father signed a cricket bat, which the team will take with them to England.
The papal XI will play matches against chaplains of the British armed forces at Aldershot and the Royal Household Cricket Club at Windsor Castle, as well as two other games. The climax of the tour will be a showdown with a Church of England team in Canterbury on September 19, 2014.
The manager of Papal XI Father Eamonn O’Higgins, and “spiritual director” of the team, said:
“Realistically, we are the rank underdogs with a very outside chance, but that’s OK. None of us has played first class cricket. The boys have not had a lot of time to practice. What we hope for, above all, is a good match.”
The Vatican cricketers will be praying and playing during the eight-day tour of England organized by the Anglican weekly newspaper The Church Times and Kent County Cricket Club. They will be visiting several holy sites and raising money for the Global Freedom Network, which fights against modern slavery and human trafficking.
Father Jery Njaliath (36), a priest from Kerala said:
“We’re going over there to beat them, to play to the maximum. But we’ll certainly play in the spirit of the game.”
Father Tony Currer, the captain of Saint Peter’s Cricket Club said:
“Win or lose, the first cricket match in history between the Vatican and the Church of England will be an event to remember and to build on.”
On September 13, 2014, St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) won the first match of The Light of Faith Tour against the Chaplains of the armed forces played at Aldershot Army Cricket Ground. St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) won the match by 81 runs.
St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) 152/2 (20 overs)
Chaplains XI 71/4 (20 overs).
On September 14, 2014, in the 2nd match played between St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) Vs. St. Peter’s CC (Brighton), the Vatican team won the toss and chose to bowl first. St. Peter’s Vatican lost the T20 game to St. Peter’s Brighton.
St. Peter’s Brighton 168/6 (20 overs)
St. Peter’s Vatican 114/9 (20 overs)
In the third match of The Light of Faith tour played yesterday, September 14, 2014, St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) faced the Authors XI at Ascott House. It was a 30 overs match. The Authors XI won the toss and chose to bowl first. St. Peter’s XI (Vatican) won the match by 4 runs.
St. Peter’s 151 (29 overs)
Authors XI 147/4 (30 overs)
Judging and condemning others, is an easy task. We come to conclusions based on our observations and interactions with others. Most of us label the people around us: “He’s an idiot”, “She’s a slut”, “He’s an oaf”, etc., etc.
But who are we to pass judgment? What rights do we have to appraise others.
This brings to my mind two sayings In Tamil:
“இன்னது மெய் இன்னது பொய் என்று யார் சொல்லலாம்?”
(Transliteration: innathu mei, innathu poi endru yaar sollalaam?) meaning “Who can tell which is true and which is false?”
“கண்ணாலே காண்பதும் பொய், காதாலே கேட்பதும் பொய், தீர விசாரிப்பதே மெய்..”
(Transliteration: kannaalae kaanbathum poi, kaathaalae kaetpathum poi, theera visaaripathae mei.) meaning “the eye can lie, the ear can lie, best is to investige thoroughly.”
Hence, we must investigate thoroughly before passing on our judgment and condemning others. Also, we must as well learn to forgive those who displease us.
All of us have a right to our justified anger. Though psychologists tell us that “anger is a human emotion that is completely normal and generally healthy” doesn’t mean that we have the right to take that anger out on our loved ones, friends, neighbors, or any other human being or living creature.
Forgiving is just not an attitude. It involves using our will and intellect to forgive and forget. We should not wait for the feeling to forgive come to us; because that may never happen. And, if you find it difficult to forgive, then pray to God and ask Him for the grace to forgive.
Martin Luther King Jr., said:
“First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love… Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Giving is a spiritual practice and has a spiritual value. All the major religions of the world teach their followers to give, to provide for the poor and the needy.
The pali word ‘dāna‘ and the Sanskrit word ‘daan‘ mean giving or generosity. In Hinduism and Buddhism, it is also used to mean the practice of cultivating generosity.
For the Hindus there are five important points to keep in mind.
Give with the heart not with the head.
Give with Joy, not reluctantly.
Give only that is useful to the other person, not rubbish.
Give without expecting anything in return. There should be no give and take.
Give with humility, love and compassion, not with pride or arrogance .
For the Buddhists,
Giving (dāna) as a formal religious act has the effect of purifying and transforming the mind of the giver.
Generosity developed through giving leads to being reborn in happy states and the availability of material wealth. Conversely, lack of giving leads to unhappy states and poverty.
Giving without seeking anything in return leads to greater spiritual wealth. Moreover, it reduces the acquisitive impulses that ultimately lead to continued dukkha (sorrow).
In Judaism, traditional Jews give at least ten percent of their income to charity and their homes commonly have a pushke, a box for routinely collecting coins for the needy. Jewish youths continually go door-to-door collecting cash and sundry for various worthy causes. A standard mourner’s prayer includes a statement that the mourner will make a donation to charity in memory of the deceased.
Zakat or alms-giving is the third pillar of the five pillars of Islam. It is the practice of charitable giving by the followers of prophet Muhammad based on accumulated wealth. It is obligatory for all who are able to do so. It is considered to be a personal responsibility for Muslims to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality. Zakat consists of spending 2.5% of one’s wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy. A Muslim rather than to achieve additional divine reward may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah).
True Christians ought to follow the wisdom of Jesus. He said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” — Luke 6:36-38
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye. — Luke 6:41-42
Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati seems to be an outspoken person. A few days before the recent parliamentary elections the seer was in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh to attend a religious programme. A reporter from a news channel pressed him to know his views on Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate. The seer lost his cool and instead of answering slapped the reporter.
The incident was politically coloured with both Congress and BJP taking different stands. The seer brushed aside the matter, saying he did not want to discuss politics.
Mayank Aggarwal, the State Congress leader said: “Sadhus should not be asked political questions in the first place.” He also added that the seer wanted the discourse to be around religious issues and felt bad at being asked about Modi.
The BJP spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai, said: “We believe that the religious leaders are the flag-bearers of religion, ethics and truth. They should be the epitome of forgiveness. Questions from the media are of prime importance and should not be brushed aside.”
However, the unperturbed seer brushed aside the matter, saying he did not want to discuss politics. Elucidating on the matter he said: “I slapped the reporter and told him ‘you are talking about him (Modi) so that he can remain a topic of discussion’.“
On June 30, 2014, while addressing a meeting of the central working committee of the Bharat Sadhu Samaj at Kankhal near Haridwar in Uttarakhand, the forthright Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand stood steadfast on his stand on Shirdi Sai Baba. He asserted that Sai Baba was a Muslim fakir and should not be worshipped like a Hindu deity. He said his campaign to protect the Hindu religion will continue even if he is sent to jail, “They may burn my effigy or even send me to jail, but my campaign to protect the sanctity of the Hindu religion will continue,” Shankaracharya said.
On June 30, 2014, while addressing a meeting of the central working committee of Bharat Sadhu Samaj at Kankhal near Haridwar in Uttarakhand, the forthright Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand stood steadfast on his stand on Shirdi Sai Baba. He stressed that there is a need now to guard against forces that were “corrupting” the Hindu religion by arbitrarily creating new gods and propagating them. He said his campaign to protect the Hindu religion was being opposed by those who had made religion a means of livelihood and some people were making money in the name of Shridi Sai Baba. He said worshipping Sai Baba was a conspiracy to divide the Hindus.
At that meeting a letter sent by Uma Bharti, the Union Minister of water resources, to the Shankaracharya explaining the rationale behind her statement made the previous day was also read out at the confluence. In the letter she had said, looking upon someone as a god was people’s prerogative.
However, Uma Bharti’s justification did not seem to satisfy the seer. Known to be a Congress backer, the Shankaracharya, belittled Uma Bharti saying he thought a devotee of Lord Ram had become a Union minister and a Ram temple in Ayodhya would soon be a reality, instead, she turned out to be the “worshiper of a Muslim.” He asked whether she had not seen the pictures of Sai Baba depicted like Hindu Gods including Shiva and Vishnu?
Now, while people are ranting and raving over this controversy of whether it is right to worship a human or not, some might wonder who the protagonist, Shridi Sai Baba, is.
The early life of Sai Baba continues to be an enigma. There are no reliable and consistent records of his birth and parentage. He is believed to have been born around 1838. He arrived at Shirdi as a nameless individual at a young age.
At Shirdi, he stayed on the outskirts of the village in Babul forest and meditated under a tropical evergreen Neem tree. Many villagers after perceiving him as an embodiment of discipline, penance and austerity, revered his saintly figure and gave him food.
After wandering in the woods for days, Sai Baba took shelter in a disused decrepit mosque. He referred to his new dwelling as “Dwarkarmai“, after the abode of Lord Krishna in Dwarka.
Very soon he had a large number of devotees among the Muslims, Hindus and Zoroastrians, who regarded him according to their individual beliefs, as a saint, a fakir, an avatar or an incarnation of god, or a Sadguru. They flocked to Dwarkarmai seeking spiritual guidance.
Unlike the present day spiritual leaders, Sai Baba had no love for corporeal materials. His sole concern was teaching self-realization.
Sai Baba is worshiped by people in India and around the world as a saint. He taught a moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace, and devotion to the Almighty and the guru. He did not distinguish people based on religion or caste.
It still remains a mystery and almost everyone is uncertain of Sai Baba’s true religious leaning – Islam or Hinduism. His teachings combined elements of Islam and Hinduism. He practiced Islamic rituals, but taught using words and figures drawn from both traditions.
A minor section of the Islamic community in India considers Sai Baba as a Muslim Fakir and as a Sufi Pir or Peer, translated into English as “saint” and could be interpreted as “Elder”. In Sufism a Pir’s role is to guide and instruct his disciples on the Sufi path.
Zoroastrians like Nanabhoy Palkhivala and Homi Bhabha, worship Sai Baba who has been cited as the Zoroastrians’ most popular non-Zoroastrian religious figure.
Sai Baba died on October 15, 1918. He was buried in Shirdi. He is well known for the aphorisms such as “Allah Malik” (“God is King”) and “Sabka Malik Ek” (“One God governs all”), which is associated with both Islam and Sufism. He also said:
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. ( Matthew 11:28-30)
When Jesus says “who labor and are burdened” he means burdened by the law as expounded by the scribes and Pharisees. On another occasion Matthew says:
They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. (Matthew 23:4)
Jesus invites the burdened to take the yoke of obedience to his word, under which they will find rest in place of the yoke of the law, complicated by scribal interpretation.
Thus says the LORD: Stand by the earliest roads, ask the pathways of old, “Which is the way to good?” and walk it; thus you will find rest for yourselves. But they said, “We will not walk it.” (Jeremiah 6:16)
These verses of Matthew are peculiar and are similar to ben Sirach’s invitation to learn wisdom and submit to her yoke:
Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instruction; (Sirach 51:23)
Take her yoke upon your neck; that your mind may receive her teaching. For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her. (Sirach 51:26)
The Wisdom of Ben Sirach
“Sirach” or the “The Wisdom of Sirach” from which the verses, quoted above, attributed to Jesus ben Sira has been drawn is the last of the seven “Wisdom Books” in the Old Testament. The other six are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Wisdom.
The Wisdom of Sirach is a collection of ethical teachings, a work from the early 2nd century BC. It is the work of a single author – Jesus ben Sirach of Jerusalem. It closely resembles Proverbs, which is an anthology of maxims drawn from various sources. The work derives its title from the author’s words:
Wise instruction, appropriate proverbs, I have written in this book— I, Yeshua [Jesus] Ben Eleazar Ben Sira — as they poured forth from my heart’s understanding. (Sirach 50:27)
The title “Sirach” comes from the Greek form of the author’s name.
The author, Jesus ben Sirach of Jerusalem was thoroughly imbued with love for the wisdom tradition, and also for the law, the priesthood, the Temple, and divine worship. As a wise and experienced observer of life he addressed himself to his contemporaries with the motive of helping them maintain religious faith and integrity through study of the books sacred to the Jewish tradition.
The Wisdom of Sirach contains numerous well-crafted maxims, grouped by affinity, and dealing with a variety of subjects such as the individual, the family, the community, the state, and communion with God. It treats of friendship, education, poverty and wealth, laws, religious worship, and many other issues that reflect the religious and social customs of the period.
Wisdom, in Ben Sira’s view, is synonymous with the reverence of God, and sometimes is identified in his mind with adherence to the Mosaic law.
The contents of “The Wisdom of Ben Sirach” are of a discursive nature, not easily divided into separate parts. Chapters 1–43 deal largely with moral instruction; 44:1–50:24 contain a eulogy of the heroes of Israel. There are two appendixes in which the author expresses his gratitude to God (51:1–12), and invites the unschooled to acquire true wisdom (51:13–30).
Jesus ben Sirach may have authored the work in Alexandria, Egypt, between 180 – 175 BC, where he is thought to have established a school. It was originally written in Hebrew. The text was translated into Greek by the author’s grandson after 117 BC, who also added a prologue, which contains valuable information about the book, its author, and himself as the translator.
“The Wisdom of Sirach” seems to be the earliest title of the book it is also known by various names:
“Book of the All-Virtuous Wisdom of Jesus benSira“,
“Wisdom of Sirach“,
“The Book Ecclesiasticus“,
“Proverbs of benSirach” (משלי בן סירא, Mišley ben Siraʼ),
“Wisdom of ben Sirach” (חכמת בן סירא,Ḥokhmat ben Siraʼ), or simply “Sirach.”
Though there are numerous citations of Sirach in the Talmud and works of rabbinic literature (as “ספר בן סירא”, e.g., Hagigah 13a) the book was not accepted into the scriptural canon of Judaism after the first century A.D., nor, therefore, accepted by Protestants.
The Wisdom of Ben Sirach has been acknowledged by the Catholic Church as inspired and canonical. The Foreword, though not properly part of the book, is always included with it because of its antiquity and importance. Sirach is also accepted as part of the Christian biblical canon by Eastern Orthodox, and most Oriental Orthodox churches.
The Greek Church Fathers also called it the “All-Virtuous Wisdom.” The Latin Church Fathers, beginning with Saint Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (died September 14, 258) termed it “Ecclesiasticus.” The designation “Liber Ecclesiasticus,” meaning “Church Book,” appended to some Greek and Latin manuscripts, is perhaps due to the extensive use the church made of this book in presenting moral teaching to catechumens and to the faithful.
Until the close of the nineteenth century “The Wisdom of Ben Sirach” was known to Christians in translations, of which the Greek rendering was the most important. From it the Latin version was made. Between 1896 and 1900, again in 1931, and several times since 1956, incomplete manuscripts were discovered, so that more than two thirds of the book in Hebrew is available. These Hebrew texts agree substantially with the Greek. One such text, from Masada, is pre-Christian in date. So, the work of ben Sirach is presently known through various versions, which scholars still struggle to disentangle.
Here is a sample of Jesus Ben Sira’s wisdom.
Ben Sira’s Pursuit of Wisdom – Sirach 51:13-30
13 When I was young and innocent, I sought wisdom.
14 She came to me in her beauty, and until the end I will cultivate her.
15 As the blossoms yielded to ripening grapes, the heart’s joy, My feet kept to the level path because from earliest youth I was familiar with her.
16 In the short time I paid heed, I met with great instruction.
17 Since in this way I have profited, I will give my Teacher grateful praise.
18 I resolved to tread her paths; I have been jealous for the good and will not turn back.
19 I burned with desire for her, never relenting. I became preoccupied with her, never weary of extolling her. I spread out my hands to the heavens and I came to know her secrets.
20 For her I purified my hands; in cleanness I attained to her. At first acquaintance with her, I gained understanding such that I will never forsake her.
21 My whole being was stirred to seek her; therefore I have made her my prize possession.
22 The LORD has rewarded me with lips, with a tongue for praising him.
23 Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instruction;
24 How long will you deprive yourself of wisdom’s food, how long endure such bitter thirst?
25 I open my mouth and speak of her: gain wisdom for yourselves at no cost.
26 Take her yoke upon your neck; that your mind may receive her teaching. For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her.
27 See for yourselves! I have labored only a little, but have found much.
28 Acquire but a little instruction, and you will win silver and gold through her.
29 May your soul rejoice in God’s mercy; do not be ashamed to give him praise.
30 Work at your tasks in due season, and in his own time God will give you your reward.
Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified
He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.
Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.”
– Matthew 28:5-7
Luke the Evangelist narrates the resurrection of Jesus in five parts and all the resurrection appearances take place in and around Jerusalem; moreover, they are all recounted as having taken place on Easter Sunday.
Part 1 – The women at the empty tomb (Luke 23:54–24:12)
It was the day of preparation, and the sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils.
Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.
But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them.
They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground.
They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.”
And they remembered his words.
Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others.
The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them.
But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened.
Part 2 – The appearance to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35)
Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
In the above episode Luke focuses on the interpretation of scripture by the risen Jesus and the recognition of him by his disciples in the breaking of the bread.
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.(Luke 24:27)
And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. (Luke 24:30-31)
Luke mentions Emmaus as situated seven miles from Jerusalem.
Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, (Luke 24:13)
Seven miles: literally, “sixty stades.” A stade was 607 feet. Some manuscripts read “160 stades” or more than eighteen miles.
The exact location of Emmaus is disputed by scholars.
In all the resurrection stories a consistent feature is that the risen Jesus appeared differently even to his close associates and was initially unrecognizable.
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. (John 20:14)
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. (Luke 24:16)
But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. (Luke 24:37)
After this he appeared in another form to two of them walking along on their way to the country. (Mark 16:12)
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (John 21:4)
Part 3 – The appearance to the disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36–43)
While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”
And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.
Part 4 – Jesus’ final instructions (Luke 24:44–49)
He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And [behold] I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Part 5 – The Ascension (Luke 24:50–53)
Then he led them [out] as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them.
As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.
They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.
Christ is risen from the dead – المسيح قام من بين الأموات
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it
Jesus is risen from the dead
Defeating death by death
And giving life to those in the grave