Let the gallant victory of the Ascension fill our hearts today…
Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, expressed this in his May 24, 2020 message provided to ZENIT English for Ascension Sunday and World Communications Day.
The President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) recognized Sunday as representing these two important occasions, and encouraged faithful to keep in mind several elements.
Speaking on the Ascension of the Lord, Cardinal Bo says the Lord Jesus can say with joy: “Mission Accomplished!”
With the Son returning to the Father, the FABC President reminded, He achieved “monumental things in reconciling the humanity to God,” noting it “came at a great cost.”
This day, he said, is the celebration of victory of light over darkness, life over death, hope over despair, good over evil, God over Satan.
“Let this gallant victory,” he underscored, “fill our hearts today.”
“We need this sense of victory more than ever in this pandemic era,” the cardinal admitted, recognizing that COVID “has brought many of our lives to a standstill.”
During these months, he acknowledged, we “sailed through stormy seas of despair, noting: “The dark nights are not yet over.”
“The deafening silence of Holy Saturday,” Myanmar’s Cardinal acknowledged, “seems to linger on.”
“But every true Christian,” he encouraged, “believes our God is not a God who does not understand our suffering. He understands our brokenness, our tears because as the letter to Hebrews proclaims : “Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” (Hebrew 2: 18).”
We live through challenges, Cardinal Bo said, “because of the long lockdown and closure of our dear churches continues to challenge our faith.”
“The challenge of Christ,” he exhorted, “is calling each one of you to be apostles of the Good News in the places you live. Be the Good News to one another.”
“Every family,” he said, “is the mini church.” Saying to taste and see the Lord is good in your family and friends, Cardinal Bo reminds, the Lord knows our strengths and vulnerabilities, and gives us grace.
To a world battling the coronavirus pandemic, he encourages faithful to not lose hope.
“Let us continue our faith journey through these COVID days,” he said, stressing: “Let COVID become history and disappear since a living God is in charge.”
The Cardinal told his faithful that his Mass is offered to all of them, and all those “deeply troubled” by anxieties, illness, family problems and financial difficulties.
“Let the Lord who broke the five loaves and fed five thousand people,” he said, “stretch His mighty hand and heal you and provide you all the necessities.”
“Stay blessed,” he adds, reminding: The darkness will go away. Every long night ends with a dawn. It is near.”
The Asian prelate reminds us to be grateful the Lord Jesus for his redemptive suffering and his victorious resurrection which has redeemed all of us.
“He has not disappeared into the skies after Ascension,” he said, adding: “He has entrusted his mission to you and me. Yes, all of us are his chosen disciples and the mission he gave is simple: Go to every corner of the earth, proclaim the Good News and make disciples.”
Reminding Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit before he departed, the Cardinal said he Holy Spirit invites each one of us to continue the salvific mission of Jesus.”
Myanmar is emerging from decades of military rule after Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won the 2015 elections and has taken office.
The Muslim minority in Myanmar of the Rohingyas is considered by the UN to be one of the most persecuted. According to data from the Arakan Project, a humanitarian organization defending Rohingyas rights, since 2010, some 100,000 members of the minority have fled Burma (Myanmar) by sea. Violence between radical Buddhists and Rohingyas has left, since 2012, more than 200 dead and 140,000 displaced.
Here is Cardinal Bo’s message:
Ascension Sunday and Communications Sunday
Live Stream Mass – By Cardinal Charles Maung Bo., SDB –
Archbishop of Yangon Myanmar
24 May 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Let all beings be blessed. Let this world continue to be blessed. Let all of you participating in this celebration of Bread and Word be blessed abundantly through God’s Grace. The Living, loving and Liberating God bless your with all goodness.
Today we have gathered to celebrate two important events :
- Ascension Sunday and 2. World Communications Day.
The first is the event of the Ascension of the Lord. Lord Jesus can say with joy : “Mission Accomplished!” The Son returns to the Father. The Son has achieved monumental things in reconciling the humanity to God. It came at a great cost. Though he was of God, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave. The lamb of God was tortured, forced to carry the Cross and crucified. We walked through his way of the Cross on Good Friday, waited with hope on the Holy Saturday and rejoiced when he won over death and decay and triumphantly rose again on the third day on Easter Sunday. After staying with the disciples for forty days, with his mission accomplished he returns with a great sense of fulfillment to the Father. Happy feast of Ascension.
Today is the celebration of victory of light over darkness, life over death, hope over despair, good over evil, God over Satan. Let this gallant victory fill our hearts today. We need this sense of victory more than ever in this pandemic era. COVID has brought many of our lives to a standstill. We sailed through stormy seas of despair and dark soul of night during these months. The dark nights are not yet over. The deafening silence of the Holy Saturday seems to linger on. But every true Christian believes our God is not a God who does not understand our suffering. He understands our brokenness, our tears because as the letter to Hebrews proclaims : “Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” (Hebrew 2: 18).
Let us continue our faith Journey through these COVID days. Let COVID become history and disappear since a living God is in charge. This Mass is offered to all of you, specially those of you who are deeply troubled by anxieties, illness, family problems and financial difficulties. Let the Lord who broke the five loaves and fed five thousand people stretch his mighty hand and heal you and provide you all the necessities. Stay blessed. The Darkness will go away. Every long night ends with a dawn. It is near.
On this Ascension day we are grateful the Lord Jesus for his redemptive suffering and his victorious resurrection which has redeemed all of us. He has not disappeared into the skies after Ascension. He has entrusted his mission to you and me. Yes, all of us are his chosen disciples and the mission he gave is simple : Go to every corner of the earth, proclaim the Good News and make disciples. We have become the voice of Jesus. Our voice is empowered by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit before he departed. Now the Holy Spirit invites each one of us to continue the salvific mission of Jesus.
What is that mission to you today?
Mission of being a Christian during the COVID is a grace and challenge.
Challenge because the long lockdown and closure of our dear churches continues to challenge our faith. The challenge of Christ is calling each one of you to be apostles of the Good News in the places you live. Be the Good News to one another. Every family is the mini church. Taste and see the Lord is good in your family and friends. We live through Grace and Challenge because the Lord knows our strengths and vulnerabilities.
I said this Sunday is significant for two reasons : One is the happy event of Ascension. The second is World Communication Day 2020.
On this day Pope Francis has issued a beautiful statement with the central theme :
“That you may tell your Children and Grandchildren” (Ex.10.2) Life becomes history..
We tell our Faith Story, the faith History of God’s abundant love for human family. That story is human experience of God’s blind love for human family. God’s story of love started with his wish to share his infinite love with Adam and Eve. It continues with the betrayal of man and woman. It continues with God’s concern for the Israel people. The story of God as the Liberator of the oppressed Israelites from savage grip of Pharaoh, the story of God as the Provider in the desert, the story of God who entered into a covenant relationship with humanity. God’s story is a tale of unconditional love – “ I called you out of your womb, even if the mother forgets her child I never forget you. I carved you in my palm.’’ God’s story is also the story of his special care for the orphan, widows, the poor of Yahweh. It is also the mad love of God for his creatures when he decided to sacrifice his son “God so loved the world, that he sent his only son, not to condemn but to redeem.”
Jesus recast the story of whole humanity. He retold the story of the Old Testament. He gave a fresh spring of faith through recasting the “ strict, angry, vengeful and punishing God” into “Abba the Father, Our Father in Heaven.” He retold the story of God not as a macho monotheistic yonder wonder, but God who lives as a community of trinity, teaching us that all of us are called to seek dignity in community.
Jesus retold the story of simple people like you and me. In a highly ritual Jewish society Christ showed that God comes not in search of the healthy and wealthy but for the sick and poor. He retells the story of the tax Collector Zacchaeus , spurned and stigmatized by the Jewish elite. He dines with the tax collector, he recast him as a repentant lover of humanity. He seeks water from Samaritan woman, another group stigmatized by the purity conscious priests and Pharisees. Jesus retells her story and turns her into an apostle of Good News. Jesus’ stories empower : take the example of Good Samaritan, the woman caught in adultery. Jesus retells the story of how service is power and those who seek power and glory are condemned in heavenly gate.
Pope Francis, in his World day of Communication message, beautifully builds on the story of Divine Communication with humanity. God was always communicating with humanity, through Angels, through prophets, through miracles. But end of times he spoke through his Son. The medium is the message. Christ is the visible communication of the invisible Father. Christ was a wonderful story teller, with parables as his preaching method. His good news came through life affirming stories. We are all God’s parable.
Pope Francis urges us to recall our stories. We need to tell our stories. Some of our stories are wounded stories, stories of neglect, stories of knowing no love. But Pope Francis asks us to recast our stories in the light of God’s stories for each one of us. God has a story to tell about each one of us. This story we need to hear first of all. What is God’s story for me, his plan for me. This story, like the Samaritan woman when she heard her story recast by the savior ran to share with her community, needs to be shared among our communities, our dear and near ones. Always remember stories unwrap us from our package of illusions. The distance between the truth and us is just a story! Tell God’s story about you. We are a love letter from God as St Paul shouts with joy- You are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Cor. 3: 3).
It is very significant that in this era of social media and gadgets, Pope is not talking about Facebook, twitter or mobile phones etc. He knows that our phones can connect with one another, but they cannot connect our hearts. Amidst this overload of social media noise, Pope urges us : Not face book, but face to face stories with human beings. Our sharing of stories is like the Eucharist. We recognize we are all interconnected, not through our phones, but through our common humanity. The din of social media has robbed us of our humanity and made us digital slaves. We are in the Babylonian captivity of perpetual addiction to the slavery of social media. We await a new Moses who can take us across the sea of delusion and reach the promised land of humanity.
Same Pope who urges us to be story tellers to regain our humanity is warning us “not all stories are good stories.” The digital slavery has taken away the sense and sensibility of even civilized countries. Myanmar, known for its graceful people and a scintillating culture of grace and grit is highly polluted by the digital sewage. A section of the younger generation is fed with a toxic cognac of narratives of hatred, compulsive abusive behavior, addictive pornography and other cluster bombs of negativity.
A culture, nurtured through centuries of graceful cultural streams is drinking from polluted wells of depravity of carnal bits and bytes. What is the contribution of social media to the next generation? Pope is conscious of the fake news and false narratives often mutilating human relationships and social harmony is let loose in the society. The stories these evil persons spread in the net has viscerally wounded the next generation. Even the children are not spared. Evil men teach hatred and evil to children. Jesus cried with anguish : “It is better for such a person to be thrown into the sea with a milestone round the neck than to be downfall of a single one of these little ones.” (Luke 17:2)
The false narratives are the cultural COVID. The real COVID may go away with some vaccines. The social media COVID will inflict moral mortality to our young generation. Social harmony was already mutilated by the narratives of hatred spread by fringe groups. Conflicts rage in many parts of the country. Once we were all sons and daughters of the same country. But today, social media has fragmented our unity into scraps of religious, ethnic and linguistic fragments. Even the social media, Facebook has taken note of the lava of hatred spewing through social media in Myanmar. Myanmar people coming out and shouting in Facebook and Youtube, both in the country and outside Myanmar, 90% has no standard and above all using abusive words. It is a sign of lack of education, lack of etiquette and very base attitudes.
Pope Francis urges our stories should celebrate our common humanity. He tells us to recast our stories in the light of Jesus. He is the greatest story teller of humanity’s redemption. He is the story. His gaze is needed in Myanmar to cleanse us of all the contaminated stories. He guides us to discern the good from evil, redemption from condemnation. Our negativity and hatred is cleansed by Jesus story of unconditional love for all of us.
We all need a good inspiration to overcome inhumanity that comes through the media. The Pope guides us to “entrust us ourselves to a woman who knit together in her womb the humanity of God and , the Gospel tells us, wove together the events of her life. For the Virgin Mary “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2: 19)
On this World Communications Day, let us join with the Pope in his Prayer to Mary – a prayer with contemporary relevance to Myanmar :
“O Mary, Woman and Mother, Listen to our stories, hold them in your heart and make your own the stories that no one wants to hear. Teach us to recognize the good thread that runs through the history. Look at the tangled knots in our life that paralyze our memory. By your gentle hands, every knot can be united. Woman of Spirit, mother of trust, inspire us too.
With the Pope let us add our own prayers.
“Help us Mary to build stories of peace, stories that point to the future. And show us the way to live them together in harmony in our great country Myanmar.”
Stay blessed my dear people of God.[Text of Message was given by Cardinal Bo to ZENIT’s Deborah Lubov ]