Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Peace of Christ.
In the Christmas season, we have heard great words from the Old Testament. “Those who have walked in darkness have seen the light,” says Prophet Isaiah. But I have been asked not to look at the light for some more days due to my eyes surgery.
But I have come to see the light of morning star. The light of our Lady, the Ark of the Covenant. Happy feast day to all of you. It gives me a great spiritual light and thrill to be with you on this day celebrating this great feast: Happy feast to all of you. Immaculate Conception.
Catholics rejoice in every feast of Our Lady. It was the Angel Gabriel who announced that “ Blessed are you among women- blessed is the fruit of the womb, Jesus. Today we celebrate the significant tenant of our Faith: That Mary is unstained by the sin. She is the new Ark of the covenant. She is pure because she was carrying the covenant of God, Jesus in her womb.
In the old testament, the tablets of the ten commandments were carried in a holy box called the Ark of the Covenant. The Israelites carried the Ark of the Covenant with great veneration. Those who carried the Ark of the Covenant were required to be unblemished and pure.
Mary carried the new Ark of the Covenant: Jesus himself. God chose her to be a vessel unblemished by original sin.
St Paul says “ God chose from the beginning of the world to be holy and blameless”. (Eph. 1:4). Mary was chosen already when Adam and Eve our first parents chose to commit the unforgivable sin. God told the Satan that tempted them “ I shall create enmity between your seed and her seed. And she will crush your head.. (Gen 3:15) Satan the symbol of sin and evil had to confront Mary of the immaculate conception. Through her courage, humanity had the Savior. It is her seed, Jesus would ultimately throw out the Kingdom of Satan through his supreme sacrifice on the Cross.
Why today evil and sins are having the upper hand? Fulton Sheen and many others would comment that because we do not rely on the person, who crushes the head of Satan. When there is a decline of devotion to Mary, the devil and evil seem to triumph.
So today we celebrate the victory of light over darkness, the victory of good over evil, the victory of hope against despair, the victory of Grace over Sin. Today we repeat with the Angel “ Mary, you are full of Grace”.
Yes, we have come here to celebrate Grace. Grace is the gift of God. President Obama once sang the song “ Amazing Grace” in a church where an extremist killed black worshippers. He explained grace as a gift that is given freely to those who believe. Grace is the gift from God. And Mary has a great greeting from Gabriel: Hail, Mary, Full of Grace!
Yes. Our mother is full of God’s gift, the joy of knowing that God loves us. She is full of Grace – St Louis Montfort once said:
God the Father made a gather of all the waters and called it the Sea; he made a gathering of all graces and Called it Mary”.
In 1858 Mother Mary herself appeared to Bernard in Lourdes and announced: “ I am Immaculate”. In 1854 Pope Pius the IX proclaimed officially the dogma that Mother Mary was saved from Sin because of her extraordinary choice of being the mother of Savior.
We in Myanmar have a great devotion to Our Lady and Rosary.
What do we need to learn from Our Mother? She was faithful to Jesus. From birth to death she accompanied him. Being a Christian has been a challenge in this country. But it is a joy to see that Mother strengthened us in our faith and we as a church survived many challenges.
The second lesson we hear from her is the words she uttered at the Marriage at Cana : Do as he tells you. Yes. We are called to action. Our faith needs to be shown in action. Mary accepted the Angels words and lived it every minute, serving Jesus faithfully. Often easy to hear the word of Jesus for us but to do his will his difficult for most of us like the seed that fell on the rock. Mary is urging us to become disciple not only devotees. She was the first disciple, understanding Christ mission. Her ‘magnificat’ shows how she understood the mission. She sang “ She raises the lowly and sent away the rich empty”.
She was not only a devotee of Jesus. The word became flesh in her. But she became his disciple, proclaiming His Kingdom on earth through Magnificat.
This is the call Our Mother is asking us : Proclaim my Son’s good news of the Kingdom of God. As Christians each one of is required to hold Jesus in our heart and proclaim him and his Kingdom.
Last two years the church in Myanmar was involved in the Socio Pastoral Planning for the betterment of faith and life of the people of Myanmar.
Keeping Mother Mary ’s words in mind, the Bishops have taken the initiative to concentrate on Women Development. The first motive is to turn every woman as the Evangelizers. Today our people need deep faith and mothers are the first catechists to their children. Like Mary, they need to hold Jesus in their heart and be apostles to their children and family. Let the Evangelised become Evangelizers.
Women are indispensable for the Nation, the Church and in our Dioceses. They are the agents for building Peace in the country and source of development. More participation is needed in decision making, in the nation, dioceses, and Parishes. Ignoring the presence of religious sisters, women, and girls would mean that we waste 50% of the strength and resources.
We also remember thousands of young girls, who are in the age of Mother Mary when Angel Gabriel met her, who are at risk. Mother Mary must have been a teenage girl when she received the Annunciation from the Angel. Today hundreds and thousands of our teenage girls do not have much good news, they are exploited, lack education and thousands are trafficked every year. We need to redouble our efforts in providing a safe future for young women in this country.
I wish all of you the same Grace that made a simple Jewish woman to become the mother of the Saviour. She continues to inspire us for centuries. She is the real apostle, energizing the church with the eternal message of love and faithfulness to the Gospel.
May her intercessions be each one of you today, may her hand heal those of you who are sick, may her intercession bring prosperity to all of you.
May her intercession bring the great blessing which the Angel uttered to her.
That is: May all of you be Full of Grace.