Agents of death are agents of the devil: Be agents of life to be messengers of God’s love

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, President of the Catholic Bishops, Conference of Myanmar. (Photo by CBCM)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

May the healing touch of Jesus our Lord touch each one of us, the nation and all its leaders and bring peace. We continue our prayers for our nation. We continue our prayers for each one of you, facing so many challenges. These are dark moments of challenges. Let the words of the eternal healer, Jesus “ I am the way, the light and the truth” reverberate in our hearts. Stay in hope and faith.

We have an urgent message for today and it comes from the Second reading: St Paul says “As Christ became poor for our sake, so must we share with those in need from our abundance.”

Yes brothers and sisters, at this very moment we gather here to pray, thousands of our country men and women are in desperate need for food, medicine and shelter. More than 200,000 people have become displaced. We need prayer; but urgently we need to share, as St Paul says, out of our abundance. COVID is at the doors. We face many challenges my dear brothers and sisters. It is time for embedding safety with solidarity of our suffering people. Stay safe, stay blessed.

The first reading from the Book of Wisdom, recalls the original sin of Cain. It focuses on the current theme: Brother killing brother. Inhumanity of man against his brothers and sisters.

Within four pages of the Bible, there is blood. Cain killed his brother Abel. The innocent blood cried unto the Lord. There were just two brothers. No race, no tribe, no different religion.

Yet the first brother kills his brother. The first human act was not love; but jealousy and killing.

History is the story of man wading through the blood of his brothers and sisters. Even during Moses’ times, killing was so gruesomely routine. Moses wrote laws to moderate killing: An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth. If your enemy plucks out one of your eyes, please don’t pluck out two eyes, but just one eye, not two eyes. If he knocks out two teeth, go after him, knock out just two teeth. It sounds gruesome. But that was the moderation Moses tried with human beings born with hatred and violence. Animals don’t kill in thousands. Once their hunger is satisfied, no animal kills. Only human beings can kill in thousands, boasting “our guns can kill three hundred people in a minute.”

In despair, Moses had to intervene with laws of moderation in killing, impressing upon human beings, if they cannot follow morality of a decent human being, at least they must follow animal instincts of avoiding wanton killing and sadistic torture of fellow human beings.

From the time of the Bible till today, human history is a nauseating chronicle of killing, wading through rivers of blood. Think of Hitler, who killed six million Jews; Stalin and Mao, who starved millions into death, or Pol Pot in Cambodia, who killed more than two million innocent people. In the 20th century all those dictators and others killed more than 135 million people.

History books are soaked in human blood, not written in ink but in blood of the innocents.

In the arrogance of rulers, kings and dictators, killing played a major role. The Book of Wisdom tells us this: God did not make death nor rejoices in the destruction of the living. He made man and woman immortal; but man’s cohabitation with the devil brought death.

For God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.

In short, the book of Wisdom accuses those who seek recourse to violence and death are agents of the biggest killer in history: Devil. The wonderful Garden of Eden created by God was turned into a valley of death and lifeless bones, as graphically depicted in the book of Ezekiel ( Ch 37). Countries under violence become valley of death and bones. Agents of the devil are active.

The French Catholic philosopher Rene Girard, who studied violence, asked the troubling question: Are human beings created to love? Or are they condemned to violence and killing?

He answers: Jesus is the answer to all the violence. Jesus preached against violence. Jesus refused to inflict violence. He did not make others scapegoats and sacrificed them. Instead he made himself the lamb of God and fell victim to violence in a great act of redemptive suffering. Leaders do not sacrifice others to stay in power. Jesus sacrificed himself so that others may have eternal life.

That is the message to this nation. What violence we have witnessed in the last four months! Sheer horror. Jesus was crucified in our streets and villages. Those in power believe only in the violent option, provoking others to fall into the violence trap. The Book of Wisdom cries out: Stop all violence. That is not God’s way. God created us for peace; he created us in his image. Nobody deserves violence, the torture, incarceration and death that we witness in our country for the last four months. Violence will never bring God’s Kingdom on Earth.

The Gospel brings up two powerful images of healing to Myanmar.

  • The powerful official’s daughter is raised to life again with Jesus Words: Talitha cum.
  • The old woman who was bleeding for long years is cured by a miracle by Jesus.

The contrasts between Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage are stark and revealing. One is a man; the other is a woman. One is a public official, an important person in the community. The other is a woman who has lost everything to find a cure to a condition that separated her from the community. One approaches Jesus publicly. The other approaches Jesus secretly. Yet in each case, faith leads them to seek out Jesus in their time of need. We, too, seek Jesus’ intervention today.

We shall not deal with who is the daughter of the powerful official that is referred in the Gospel.

We shall assume Myanmar is that daughter. For seven, decades conflicts, oppression and lack of freedom, buried that daughter in gloom, under development, displacement, death. The Bible talks about the young daughter, who died before time.

Myanmar was that daughter, died before time and buried in sterile graves of despair. It is Jesus who is holding the hand of this daughter and saying: “Talitha cum (Young Girl Get up)!”

Yes. It is Jesus, who is touching our nation today and saying, “Young Girl get up. Get up from your all pain, your anguish, decades of destruction, despair, death and suffocating poverty.” It is Jesus standing near the challenged Myanmar and touching her hands with the consoling words: Dear Myanmar, the young woman, blessed with so many natural resources: Talitha cum, get up from all powers of death. Let justice and peace flow like a river in your land. Let your history be rewritten in peace and reconciliation. We struggle to be free from the culture of death.

What do we pray for today?

Let every arm and weapon that killed our people be thrown away and let the dream of Isiah come true: He will settle disputes among great nations. They will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will never again go to war, never prepare for battle again. (Is 2:4)

Myanmar waits for the Talitha cum: of the dream of peaceful world dreamt in the book of Revelation

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” 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. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” ( Rev 21: 1-4)

This is the prayer in the lips of every citizen in this country. Let there be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying or pain. Enough of violence, enough of hatred. Violence and hatred has brought only non-stop bleeding, as the woman in the Gospel suffered for decades. This country had violent blood letting for seven decades. Let us, as a nation, touch the garment of healing and be totally healed.

Let all signs of death go away. May this country regain its glory, rising from the culture of death and violence into Talitha cum culture of life. Let not our streets be filled with the blood and hemorrhage of hatred, let us all: the army, the civilian government, the people, rise up from the culture of death and dance with joy of freedom, hope, peace and prosperity.

That is the prayer. Let the darkness go away. Let the old order of hatred, ruthless power pass away. Let there be a new Myanmar: Talitha cum. Rise up daughter from your death into life.

This is the homily of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, on Sunday, June 27, 2021