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Cardinal Bo’s Homily for October 4, Feast of St. Francis Assisi

Sermon Preached by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo., SDB Archbishop of Yangon

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Dear Brothers and Sisters.,

Greetings in the powerful Name of Jesus.

Let every tongue that proclaims Jesus as the Lord be blessed with good health, peace of mind, and all prosperity.   Once again, my brothers and sisters in Christ, we meet at the crossroads of the historical challenge.  The second wave COVID  is here.  A virulent wave.  Fear and anxiety grip many hearts, especially the millions who will be infected with the pandemic of hunger and poverty.  Think of all children.

Yes, this is the moment of shock.

But this is also the moment of solidarity. This is the Good Samaritan moment. Let us not be the priest and the Levites who see the wounded men and women around us and move away.     As the  Pope urges us, this is not the time to be infected with the virus of selfishness, the virus of indifference, the virus of fear, the virus of anxiety.

Let the Christian Community,  spurred by its faith, go out with the three S vaccine:   Solidarity,  Sharing and Service.  Together we can work miracles,  walk on the water of human fellowship.   Let not our hearts be disturbed. God is in charge.   He who fed the thousands in the desert and healed thousands in the Pandemic of the desert will send His angels to care for us, cure us.  The living God is in charge, my brothers and sisters,  let us stand firm.

Today’s readings come as a soothing balm to the disturbed minds:  The first reading opens up with the spectacular imagery of  God as the Vineyard keeper.   With the tenderness of a mother, he tends the vineyard.  Israel is his vineyard. Humanity is his vineyard.  The wounded people are his vineyard.  He is the vinedresser.  He will dress our wounds.

The first reading talks of  His disappointment with the result.  The Lord looks for faith as the fruit of his hard work.  As Myanmar struggles with the virus,  let faith in the Living God be our seed.   Let inner light be our guide.   We shall overcome with God’s help.

The second reading St Paul seems to speak to everyone in Myanmar,  every heart troubled by the explosive attack of the virus.

Yes.  We were protected last six months from the ravages of the virus.  But in the last month,  the tide turned around.  The virus is virulent.  Suddenly our numbers are thousands and deaths are in hundreds.  Fear hovers over the city.   Anxiety mutilates the hearts of many.

St Paul has the consoling words from  the  Letter of Philippians :

Have no anxiety at all but in everything, prayer, and petition,

with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God Then the peace of the Lord that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  

               ( Philippians 4: 6-9)

What a great assurance!

Yes, brothers and Sisters!  These are not times of fear. These are the times of kneeling and raising our hands in prayer and say with faith: “Yes, Lord we wish to be healed. Heal us, console us, make us whole.”  These are the times of faith of a mustard seed.  Together, as the Pope says, we can move the mountains of fear, anxiety provoked by this virus. We shall overcome together. Let us kneel down with the name of Jesus.

The Gospel speaks of the ‘stone rejected by the builders becoming the cornerstone.’ Rejection is a toxic feeling.   Children rejected in early stages end up as criminals, adults who felt rejected end up doing dangerous acts.

These days,  many feel the pandemic of rejection: people rejected from work, people rejected from relationships,  families that rejected sick people,   communities that reject those who are in medical needs.   There is a great temptation to be selfish, self-care. Pope Francis has warned that the  Social distancing can easily become the social rejection of the vulnerable.

The example of Jesus on the Cross comes to our mind.  Even on the Cross, he did not reject his mother, his disciple. He did not even reject the thief on the Cross.   Let compassion be our cornerstone.  Let care be our common home.   Thus we become the cornerstone in the Kingdom of God.    Let the Lord work this miracle in our hearts.   Reject none;  help all in these dark times.    Let Compassion be the guiding light.  Then we can exclaim  with Jesus :

By the Lord, it has been done

And it is wonderful  in our eyes

This week  we commemorate four major  significant spiritual  events :

  1. Climax day for Season of creation.
  2. Feast Day of St. Francis Assisi
  3. Feast Day of the Holy Father.
  4. Releasing the encyclical: Cari Fratelli.
  1. Climax day for Season of creation.

Amidst the gloom of the Coronavirus, where fear grips us, humanity needs to worry about a  very great danger that creates viruses like Corona.    For too long powerful minority in the world is playing with the creation created by  God.  The  Bible says when  God created he found everything Good.    For the last fifty years, God’s gift of creation is being mercilessly wounded by human greed.

Pope Francis is called the Green Pope for his relentless struggle against the man-made ecological disaster.  He is clear in the message:  Treat nature as a gift, a  grace from a generous God.  Not as a commodity to make money.    His great encyclical, Laudato si, shook the world with its powerful message: The cry of the poor and the Cry of nature are interconnected.   Coronavirus is a grim reminder.  Playing with nature ends in disaster.  Nature never forgets.  We are asked to treat nature with dignity and respect.

From September to October each year, Catholics all over the world are inspired to celebrate God’s Season of Creation by praying and acting together to protect our common home. We have only one home.  This celebration of creation starts on 1st  September, the world day of  Prayer for Creation.   Today on the feast of Francis of Assisi,  it ends.  This is the climax of the prayer week, the Season of Creation.  As followers of Christ, we share a common role as caretakers of God’s gift, Creation.   As the Pope says, our destiny as human beings is interwoven with the fate of others.   We stand together or fall together. There is no alternative.

The theme of this year’s Season of Creation is the jubilee of Earth, New rhythms, and New Hope.   We are invited to consider the integral leadership between the rest of the earth and ecological, economic, social, and political ways of living.  The ravages of the global Pandemic, Covid 19 have painfully reminded us of the need for just and sustainable systems.   Covid is not purely a natural disaster, it is also a man-made disaster.    We invaded the natural habitat where plants and animals lived in harmony.  But now they have lost their habitat and they have entered our space and body.

Feast of St Francis of Assisi

Today is the feast of the great Saint of  Ecology: Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis has loved the saint and is the first Pope to bear the name of the Saint of poverty.  As a mark of his devotion to this saint who loved  Lady Poverty and nature,   This week, Pope Francis traveled to the birthplace of the Saint, Assisi,   as a pilgrimage of reminding us of the ecological conversion.   In these dark days of COVID, we need the intercession of the Saint of Poverty to protect us.     He is also the saint of Peace.  Most of us who are anxious and troubled can pray with him: Make  Me a  Channel of Peace, Where there is anxiety let me bring inner peace, where there is COVID wound.  let me bring healing.

Feast of the Holy   Father, Pope Francis.   Pope Francis celebrates the feast of his namesake and patron, St Francis of Assisi today.   Pope Francis is a gift God gave to us during this time of Pandemic.  He has been praying,  consoling blessing us all from the day this virus arrived.   Pope Francis is the healer, the consoler, remembering each one of us in his prayer.  May the Good Lord give him many more years of service to God and humanity.  Happy Feast Day Pope Francis!

Pope  Francis has been praying and also offering alternate models of society where the poor and the marginalized will be the center of attention. He has raised awareness  about the “ Pandemic of  Poverty”  and the “ virus of injustice.”   He is proposing not only the healing of the planet but the healing of the unjust structures that the virus took advantage of and unleashed death and mayhem.   The Pope is  working  towards a new world, reflecting the dream of the Book of Revelation: “ I saw  a new heaven and new earth, there will be no more tears;  I will make all things new.”   Pope is urging us to have a Christian hope:  that we can walk on waters, we can move mountains through faith in a God works wonders in us and through us.

Release of the New Encyclical: Cari Fratelli

On these days of spiritual darkness and anxiety, the Pope encourages us to be at the service of one another.    We belong to the same flock and our Shepherd is Jesus Christ who was not hesitant to give his life for us.   As a sign of affirmation of a healing Jesus in our lives,  Pope Francis will be releasing a new Encyclical  called Fratelli Tutti ( Dear Brothers and Sisters – taking the words of Francis of Assisi)

“Let us all, brothers, look to the Good Shepherd who suffered the passion of the Cross to save his sheep.”  St Francis urged every one of us to become a saint by following the example of Jesus  our Good Shepherd.  “The sheep of the Lord followed him in tribulation and persecution, in insult and hunger, in infirmity and temptation, and in everything else and they have received everlasting life from the Lord because of these things,” the passage continues. “Therefore, it is a great shame for us, servants of God, that while t a  saints (actually) did such things, we wish to receive glory and honor by [merely] recounting their deeds.”

The  Encyclical calls us to become disciples of Jesus; not just devotees.  It is so easy to pray to Jesus during these times, rather than facing the world, reaching out to those in need.   St Francis urges us to emulate the Saints, not just honoring them.   Being the disciples of the Cross cost us so much.    St Francis says that the disciples who participate in Christ’s Cross shared in his glory of everlasting life.   Let us not reject this stone of discipleship which will become the cornerstone in the  Kingdom of God.

Let this week turned out to be the week of Lord’s vineyard. The Wine of the Lord’s blessing,  heal our nation, especially Yangon and  Rakhine where the virus has gripped thousands.    Following St Paul advice let us continue to pray and support those affected.    Let compassion become the cornerstone of our faith.   We shall overcome my dear Brothers and Sisters because the Lord is our vineyard keeper.  He is our vine, we are the branches.  We will be healed.

Stay Safe   Stay Blessed;  Jesus is the Lord.

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