Homily of Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon at Celebration of Our Lady of Lourdes

«More than any material needs, our mother challenges us to receive the spiritual gifts every time.»

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Here is the text of the Homily given by Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon (Myanmar) at the 113th Celebration of Our Lady of Lourdes at the National Marian Center of Nyaung Lay Bin. Over 100,000 pilgrims were present at the Mass on February 28th, 2015. 

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Dear Pilgrims of our Dear Mother from all over Myanmar,

We have come here to seek her merciful maternal assistance. We, as human being, live with limitations and inabilities. It is right to seek assistance from the one who can assist us, who is stronger than we are. Mary is one whom we can trust because she is our loving mother.   

From the day she responded to the despair of the host in the Marriage at Cana, our mother Mary has responded with great compassion to all of us.  She was the most compassionate message in the apparition of Fatima, the healing apparition of Lourdes, the upholding message of Velanganni, the call to repentance message of Our Lady of Salette.  In our own land, the lady of Naung- Le- Bin is emerging as a mother of mercy, mother most holy. I welcome you to rest a while in her all quenching shade.  We pray for good health, greater prosperity and greater peace for this nation. Welcome to all of you.

More than any material needs, our mother challenges us to receive the spiritual gifts every time. We as Myanmar Church has much to thank her this year. Much has happened to Myanmar Church last one year.    Our Lady, mother of God and mother of all of us never failed to accompany the little flock of Myanmar.  Today we stand at her feet with gratitude and joy of the Children of God.  Our coming together as a Rainbow church was celebrated during the 500 years Jubilee.  This was followed by a call to serve the Universal Church as a Cardinal was given to Myanmar church.   We stand here in gratefulness.  Hail Queen full of Grace!

She has showed herself with three faces:

As Madonna with the child:  full of protection for her child. We have seen many pictures Madonna – she appeared with the child in Velanganni.  She is mother of humanity and the Church has recognized her as the Mother of God. Even on the  Cross  Jesus offered her mother as the  mother of  the whole humanity.   Today we are  one with Jesus in celebrating the feast of  our mother. 

Her Second face is the face of a Mediator.  She has also showed herself as the perpetual  mediator for  humanity.   When human beings suffer she was the first one to mediate. We have seen that in marriage at Cana.   (John 2).  In all her apparitions all over the world: Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe and La Salette she has shown herself as the most merciful mediator with God.   At the darkest moments of humanity Mary appeared as a morning star guiding our journey towards God.

Her third face is the face of mother of Sorrows.   Many of you were in  Rome recently and  seen the  great sculpture – Pieta  by Michael Angelo.  It is a very moving sight of a mother holding her son with inexplicable sorrow. This mother is also  our  mother of contemplation in this season of Lent. Thousands of mothers of sorrows are standing in our country. It is so urgent and important to accompany such sorrowful mothers.

Our Mother lives so close to us that she might be able to come to our aid at anytime of need. She is not indifferent to our misery. Throughout the history she intervenes in times of trouble and desolation.

It is always a joy to be told that a child resembles her or his mother. Both the child and the mother are happy to look alike. We as children of a loving Mother Mary, let us try to resemble her in her act of compassion and love. May I invite you “to serve the least, to seek the lost and to save the destitute!”

When someone is complete and comfortable, one fails to see the needy, fails to hear the cry of those who suffer. As the Holy Father says, “selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference.” (Pope Francis, Lenten Message, 2015)

Our Holy Father Pope Francis in his Lenten message calls us to substitute this indifference with compassion and proposes three major  biblical passages. May I reflect them and share it with you.

·       We as one body of Christ  –  to know one another  suffering ( 1 Cor 12:26) :  The  Lord is compassionate and merciful  ( Psalm 86:15 and 103: 8)  Be compassionate to one another (Eph: 4: 32).

There is no egoistic Christianity. To be Christian means part of the community. We are not worshiping a God who is alone. We are worshipping a God who is living a community -The Trinity. We are, as St Paul, indicates one body and if any body part of the body is suffering all the parts of the body knows that suffering.

We cannot forget millions of our youth  living as unsafe migrants in the nearby countries, we cannot forget the farmers who are losing their lands to  companies, we cannot forget the thousands who live in the internally displaced communities. In this season of Lent we are called to feel for one another. Just like our Mother Mary stood at the cross  she stands today at the   gates of the IDP camps, in fellowship with  the rears  of those of  innocent girls human trafficked to nearby countries. We should not forget millions of children who do not go to school. We should not  forget  thousands of farmers who lost their lands in the last two years to big companies.

These are the parts of the body that is in pain.  Our Pope calls us to feel one with these parts and feel the pain.  Christ felt out pain and was willing to become the lamb of God.

At this juncture, let Catholic Church in Myanmar be challenged! Let us as ourselves what we can do to ease the pains and sufferings of our children, our sisters and brothers 

·       Identify our suffering brothers and sisters : Where is your brother  ( Gen 4:9)

In the great  parable about  Lazarus and the rich man,  Jesus  tells all of us that the rich man’s great sin was not to  recognize the Lazarus who came every day hungry. There is widespread  indifference to human suffering today. Pope calls it “Globalization of indifference”. This indifference starts with our refusal to see poor and suffering  Lazarus in our communities.  People who suffer  spiritually, financially and  emotionally.  The call of lent is to identify Lazarus living among us ( Lk 16: 19-39).

I am so glad and so grateful to the generosity of our people. They donate a lot to the churches. Some parish churches have no more space to put up the statues donated by the parishioners. It is good to donate such things to the church. However, please do not neglect the hungry on your doorstep.  

May I urge our Parish communities to reach out to all people – regardless of  race and creed. Let us go to the peripheries, to the fringes of the society. Let our Christian communities be a haven to the weary and the destitute.

Let us not live with indifference. Let us not challenge God, like Cane, the murderer, “am I my brother’s keeper?” God will reply, “Yes, you are your brother’s keeper! You have the duty to take care of him!” 

·       Make your  hearts firm  ( James 5: 8)   

It is easy to say that the Church should be compassionate and the parish communities be more sensitive to the needy. Let us live this compassion in a particular manner. Unless the individual member moves nothing will go ahea

When God calls Moses he says,

“’I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying for help on account of their taskmasters. Yes, I am well aware of their sufferings… And I have come down to rescue them … So now I am sending you to Pharaoh, for you to bring my people the Israelites out of
Egypt.’  (Ex 3:7-10)

God wants to save his people. He did his saving work through Moses. And now He wants to continue His saving work through each one of us. He is compassionate through you. He is sending each one of us to our needy sisters and brothers. Please do not ask to whom! We come across a great number of needy daily.

Let us make our hearts firm because we need a firm heart to love and give ourselves to the needy. A compassionate heart does not mean a weak heart. Anyone who wishes to be merciful must have a strong and steadfast heart. (cf. Pope Francis, Lenten Message, 2015). Indeed, it is not easy to be merciful and compassionate. We may encounter ungrateful poor, proud and demanding needy. We need a strong heart to persevere in mercy and compassion.

Let us imitate the wounded heart of Mary our Mother. She is the mother of sorrows, Dolores. The heart that accommodated the suffering of the  humanity, the heart that  holds you and me in  protection from eternal damnation.   Today  apostle  James  urges us:  “Let our hearts be firm.  Let our hearts be  big enough to accommodate  the suffering humanity”.

There are seven swords that pierce our Lady’s heart today  in Myanmar:  Our Lady of Sorrow in Myanmar and her seven swords:

1.      The crony Capitalism that is  owning almost everything.

2.     The  refusal to solve  the conflicts through meaningful dialogue but use violence

3.     The unjust land laws that continue to  rob poor of their lands

4.     The Mafia economy of drugs, human trafficking

5.     Ongoing discrimination of ethnic communities, minorities

6.     Destruction and looting of natural resources  by companies

7.     Lack of educational and employment opportunities for the poor.

During the ceremony of the consistory, the Holy Father whispered in my ear, “Be strong! Courage! Myanmar is a little flock. Yet, God is with you! Go ahead!” And in his public talk he explained what it means to serve with love. What I heard from him is the invitation to love and compassion. The love he pointed to me is:

Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.  (1Cor 13:4-7)

Dear beloved children in Mary, let us walk in the way of this love! This is the way of love that Jesus and Mary live. With our acts of love, mercy and compassion let us prove that we are faithful children our Mother Mary. Treasuring her maternal love in our hearts, let us walk the way of love with joy and courage!

[Text provided by Aid to the Church in Need]

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Cardinal Bo spoke to a crowd of estimated 100,000 pilgrims. This text was made available to Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)

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