Below is the homily Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, and President of the Asian Bishops, delivered in Shillong Archdiocese, Northeast Bengal, India, on 10th November. There were around 200,000 faithful for Eucharistic Mass and Grand Annual Procession. Cardinal Bo was invited by the late Archbishop Dominic Jala, who passed away in California on 10th October.
Zenit also has an exclusive interview today with Cardinal Bo, offering his thoughts on the dangers of nuclear war and the continuing persecution of Christians on the eve of the Holy Father’s apostolic journey to Thailand and Japan. Zenit will be on the papal flight.
In a matter of a short time, our world has changed. God has challenged us to accept the events with the eye of faith. When I was invited my dearest friend and your most beloved Archbishop, His Grace Dominic Jala, I considered that as a conspiracy of grace. Your Archbishop was a Salesian like I am. I was deeply inspired by his missionary zeal, his love for liturgy, his passionate love for the Catholic Church. I was counting my days to be with him and his great flock all of you. It would have been an immense joy to see his smile and presence.
But life is a mystery. I am deeply saddened by his absence, the empty chair in this church. Nga sngewsih shibun/ ia ka jingbym-donlang/ jong I Archbishop Jala/ ka shuki jong i ka thylli. What a great loss to North East and the whole of India! He has gone to celebrate the eternal liturgy.
Our life is always a call to believe in faith. We believe in the Communion of Saints. I strongly believe Archbishop Jala’s spirit hovers over this function. He will never forget his flock. Today you have a strong interceder in heaven. He will be overjoyed to see this function from heaven. Bishop Jala pray for your people.
I am told that the Khasis are the first tribe among the many in the Northeast that God chose to share the gift of the Catholic faith. Like the Israelites you are the people who have been specially chosen, you have been blessed with such a privilege. A day like today we can certainly see how wholeheartedly you responded to the Lord with your yes, and live this faith so intensely. Following your examples, many other tribes embraced Christianity. You are all great apostles, Phi long ki apostol/ ki bakhraw, preaching not through words but through your witness. May the Lord Bless you hundredfold.
Today we gathered here for the celebration of Eucharist. This is my first visit. I have heard so much about the North East church in India. I have been inspired by the stories narrated by Archbishop Jala about your deep faith and the spread of the church. I have heard about Khasi people and their love for Christ’s message. Nga la iohsngew/ shaphang jong phi/ ki Khasi/ bad shaphang ka jingieid jong phi/ ia ka khubor Babha/ u Jisu Khrist. Yours is a vibrant church. It is so energizing to me to be with you. I am looking forward to the Eucharistic Procession this afternoon.
Today’s message is the life of your beloved Archbishop. All of you know his love for quality liturgy, his love for Eucharistic celebration. He always lived by the Vatican II theology “ Eucharist is the source and summit of our Spiritual Life”. In celebration of this mystery, he experienced the living, loving and liberating God.
We have gathered here to continue his devotion to Eucharist. Eucharist is the center of our life, and the demands of Eucharist are to be evangelizers and missionaries of the word. North Eastern Church is an evangelizing and missionary church. You have sent missionaries to various parts of the world.
- Eucharist comes to us as the real presence of the Second Person of Trinity. God makes his tent among and live among us in the form of the eternal sacrament of Eucharist. In the mass and in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament we celebrate Christ’s presence among us. His assurance that ‘I will be with you always’ Ngan iai-don/ ryngkat bad phi/ barabor.( Mt 28: 18) becomes a reality in the Eucharist. Eucharist is the celebration of the sacredness of the bread. We also come to celebrate our own sacredness because the Bible says that we are created in God’s Image, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we are the Immanuel – God dwells in us.
- Eucharist is a revolutionary symbol used by Jesus Christ. Christ spent his time in fellowship with sinners and tax collectors. The meal in the Jewish society is a tool to assert the fragmentation of the society as the rich and the poor, the Pharisees and publicans. Jesus will use this meal to initiate a new society, shaking it to the roots of a society steeped in oppression. His table fellowship was the assertion that God comes in search of the “lost sheep, the sick and abandoned”.
Eucharist celebration is a radical symbolism of God’s refusal to accept man-made divisions. You see that enacted in every mass. You come from various social and economic backgrounds. You may be the king or the pauper, the strong or the weak, the healthy or sick are to come to the Eucharistic altar together. Phi lah/ ban long/ ki bakhraw batri ne/ ki barit baria/ ki ba-khlain ne ki batlot/ ki ba koit ne ki bapang/ baroh ki iawan/ sha ka Iukharist. There is no preference. You have to kneel in the presence of the heavenly King. In the presence of God, everyone is the same. This is the eschatological dream, a life when there will not be any poor and rich. Life is not easy for millions. But when we gather together, we are called hope. The church is not an income-generating NGO. The church is the hope generating faith community. Eucharist leads us to that dream articulated in the 21st Chapter of Revelation: The dream of a new heaven and new earth.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev: 21 :1-3)
I pray for that day for you all. In reality, as indigenous people, you all lived that life “no tears, no suffering” before so-called civilization and modern economy entered. I come from Myanmar. A country of 7 major tribes and 135 subtribes. We share your border, we share your culture. Catholic Church is an indigenous church. Out of 16 dioceses, 14 are made up of totally indigenous people. They lived a Eucharistic community, sharing everything and not exploiting one another. I know you had already that experience. Indigenous communities have a lot to teach about the sharing theology of Eucharist. Pope Francis was inspired to write the encyclical on Ecology, Laudato Si through the life of indigenous people.
- Eucharist is the assertion that we are one Mystical Body of Christ
Other religion people must be wondering why do the Christians always gather together to pray in the Church. We are a community of believers. We believe that where two or three are gathered in Christ’s name God’s presence is felt. But beyond all these reasons, Christians gather on Sunday to break the word and break the bread. St Paul has developed the theology of Mystical Body. “we are many but one in Christ” we are all part of Christ’s mystical body. How big is this body? Catholics are more than a billion people. St Paul asserts that we belong to the mystical body of Christ.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by[ one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. ( I cor 12: 12-13).
- Eucharist is a call to Justice, A call to human Liberation.
Eucharist is not an empty ritual. It is a call to action. Jesus said on the last supper “ do it in memory of Me!” What is the memory? Christ lived on the earth for 33 years. Out of these 33 years, 3 years he broke bread only once during the last supper. But for the three years, he was breaking the bread of healing, the bread of good news, the bread of reconciliation, the bread of Justice. The world was his altar and the suffering people were his beneficiaries of his mission. Na ka bynta u Jisu/ ka pyrthei ka la long/ ka duwan-knia/ bad ki briew ki ba-shitom/ ki la ioh-nong/ naka mission jong u Jisu
His mission led him to Calvary, to the supreme sacrifice of offering his body as the bread on the cross. His body and blood were offered to the world. We need to understand the first mass was said when Jesus was condemned by the authorities to death on the Cross. His Mission as articulated in Luke 4: 16-19 led him to the cross. What is that mission?
- The spirit of the Lord is upon me
- He has sent me to give good news to the poor
- Liberation to the oppressed
- Freedom to those in Captivity.
These are not the great problems of Jesus’ times alone. We face this every day. Eucharist is the celebration of the memory that calls for Justice led Jesus to death on the cross. This is the memory: “ do it in memory of me!”.
Yes. Eucharist calls us not only to adore Jesus. Jesus is not looking only for devotees, pious, praying but doing nothing for those who suffer. Jesus is looking for disciples, not devotees. Eucharist calls us to be disciples who can work together for a world that is more just.
Ka Iukharist/ ka khot ka wer ia ngi/ ban long ki apostol/ ban pynlong/ ia ka pyrthei ka bahok.
You have listened to the words of consecration. One of my priests told me that saying “ Take and Eat” is very difficult for him to say. He comes from a war area, where hundreds were internally displaced, starvation is a great risk. In situations of injustice, the words said from the Altar lose meaning if the mission is not carried out in the streets of our world. Every priest understands that 30000 children die every day because there is no food. 10 million children die of starvation every year. The words of consecration “take and Eat” becomes a great challenge to every Christian. We are painfully aware that we break bread on thousands of altars every day knowing fully well nearly a billion people go to sleep without proper food.
Pope Francis has mainstreamed the idea of Justice as the bread to broken in this wounded world. The economic Justice and Environmental justice are the bread to be broken in this unjust world. Many indigenous people have lost their land, their surroundings. Many have become poor and become migrants. Poverty is a manmade disaster. When thousands and millions of children die of starvation in this world, Christianity sends out a clarion call for a new world.
When I was asked by this Pope to be the legate of the Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, thousands gathered every day. In my sermon I said, Eucharist calls for third world war. Third world war against poverty, starvation, the culture of indifference and oppression of the weak and vulnerable. We who partake in the boy and blood of Christ are called to the mission of Christ. The real Eucharistic mission starts outside the church.
Yes, my dear brothers, and sisters this faith is a priceless gift. We have to value it. As God chose Israel to become a light to the gentiles, you too are called to share the gift of faith with others. We have to share the ‘joy of the Gospel’ as our dear Pope Francis has said it so beautifully. I am so glad to learn that many other tribes of the region have followed your wonderful example and have embraced the Catholic faith, that from this mother church of Shillong, today we have 15 dioceses with thousands of Catholic faithful all over the region. God has blessed us also with vocations to priesthood and religious life. I am told that there are also many sons and daughters of this young church who have gone as missionaries to other lands. It is a wonderful way to express our gratitude to God for his priceless gift.
We remember with gratitude our pioneer missionaries who toiled in the region, who had to travel often on foot, the hills and valleys of this beautiful land with the Good News. We recall all the priests, religious, catechists, lay leaders- men and women, and youth who labored in the vineyard of the Lord. We remember the first Catholics who had to brave many difficulties and even opposition to embrace the faith and hand it over to us. Today it is our turn to continue this great legacy and hand over the faith so that our children grow in faithfulness, and that they pass it on to the generations that follow.
Most importantly, let us continue to share this great gift through our lives and example, our witness and faithfulness. Certainly our celebration today will inspire our children and youth to love their faith more. As we march along the roads of this beautiful city, singing and praying and praising God, I am sure many more people will recognize our witness to the Love of God and the presence of Jesus in our midst.
Let me end with the memory of our great Archbishop Dominic Jala. In many ways his life was like a lamp lit on a mountain top. He preached the good news of Christ. He was a zealous missionary. Like Jesus he went about to every corner of this northeast, reaching out to all people.
More than anything we remember him for his love of the Eucharist. He was trained in Liturgy. He spent his time in making the Eucharist the source and summit of the spirituality of every Catholic. His love for Eucharist inspired not only North East but the whole of India and even various parts of the world. He was in America for the liturgy conference. Like Jesus his last moments witnessed his breaking his body.
We honor his memory through our renewed commitment to the message of the Eucharist. Jala lives in our hearts and in our meaningful celebration. U Archbishop Dominic Jala/ u im ha ki dohnud jong ngi/ bad ka kane ka/ jinglehniam kaba shongkun. As a fellow Salesian I grieve at the loss of my brother. But to all of you he was the prophet of the Eucharist. He lifted you from the challenges of life through his preaching, breaking of the bread. I came here hoping to celebrate the Eucharist with him and thousands of his children. He has gone before us to the heavenly banquet.
Let us honor him through our commitment to mission, the mission of breaking the bread of Good News. I see his spirit inspiring each one of you today. May his mission continue in your life.
May all blessings be on you. Like the five loaves multiplied into five thousand loaves may your life be blessed hundredfold.
God bless you.
Exhortation after Eucharistic Procession:
With Jesus, With the World as the Altar
I am immensely edified by the extraordinary piety showed by you in the Eucharistic procession. We have walked with Jesus, proclaiming him as our Lord and Savior. The immeasurable grace with which Jesus established the sacrament of Eucharist on the last supper, blesses us with the true presence of Jesus.
The huge presence of the Christians from these beautiful Khasi hills and your songs and prayers reverberate in my heart and I carry the feeling of being soaked in faith. When Jesus was incarnate in this world, he was in the streets of Jerusalem, accompanying the people, consoling, healing and preaching the good news. Most part of his Ministry was done in the streets. He accompanied the weak and the vulnerable. To those Pharisees who raised the question why he often sought the sinners and tax collectors, Jesus rightly pointed out that the healthy did not need a doctor only the sick.
This Eucharistic procession was such an accompaniment of Jesus. Many of us have arrived here, like Zacheus, like the Samaritan woman, like the Widow, like the centurion, like Martha and Maria, seeking healing, seeking life, life in full. Our life needs Jesus. For many of us life is not easy, our health is not in full flow, our family life is challenging.
But today the healer accompanied us. The Good Shepherd sought us, not only in the altar or in the tabernacle, but in the streets in our houses, in our lonely hearts, it is Jesus waiting and knocking at the door of our heart, asking us to let him inside, in our lives. Seek Jesus. We need Jesus in today’s world more than ever.
The challenge of Christianity today is to recognize Jesus every moment. As he left this world, he promised that he would be with us always. ( Mathew 28:18-20). He is a living God, God who comes to us.
Eucharist and Eucharistic procession and Eucharistic adoration are the beautiful gifts from our Catholic Tradition. Vatican II aptly terms ” Eucharist is the source and summit of our spiritual life.” Today we had the great grace of tasting the presence of Jesus and proclaim as a faith community “Taste and See that the Lord is Good”. Like the disciples of Emmaus we exclaim “Were not our hearts burnt with desire when he spoke!”
As we end this great spiritual epiphany of nearly a million people, we are like the disciples at Mount Taber, savoring the powerful presence of God. But like the disciples, we need to return to our lives, continue the mission of Jesus.
Eucharist is not only for adoration. Jesus did not come to look for devotees who spent all their time around the altar. He is looking for disciples who will stand witness to his mission of Good news of the Kingdom.
We return to our daily life. We return as the missionaries of the Eucharist. Pope Francis calls for a missionary mentality for every Catholic. The church in the North East, the Khasi hills grew by the glorious commitment of the missionaries. Now your sons and daughters are going out to many lands as missionaries.
May your devotion to Eucharist make each one, to proclaim the great Good news of Christ. Like the first apostles let us be filled with the Spirit to proclaim that the body and blood of Christ is offered as a salvific grace to the whole humanity.
May all of you be blessed, like the five loaves multiplied to meet the needs of five thousand people, let prosperity and peace multiply in your lives, may the healing hand of Jesus take away all your physical and mental illnesses.
End of Eucharistic Procession
To U Trai Jong Ngi
Bad Ka Mei Bneng Jong Ngi/ Ka Maria Nong-Iarap Ki Hkristan
Kin Kyrkhu Ia Phi/ Bad Kin SynRan LynTi Ia Phi.
To U Trai / Un Iai PynLong Ia Phi/ Ki SaKhi Ba-Iaineh /Jong Ka Gospel.
Sa ShiSien/ Nga Ai KhuBlei Sngew-Nguh Ia Phi /Iwei Pa I Iwei
Na Ka Byinta Ka JingIeid
Bad JingpDiang Burom Ia Nga.
Nga Sngew /Kum Ha Iing La Jong.
Wat lada ngi la duh noh/ ia u Archbishop Dominic Jala baieid eh/ na pdeng jong ngi
Hyrei ngi kyrmen skhem ba ha
Kawei ka sngi, ngi baroh ngin sa ia kynduh ia u ha bneng
U Blei Un KyrKhu Ia Phi Baroh.
KhuBlei ShiBun Eh.