'I will not leave orphans' (John 14:15-21)

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon

In the presence of the Word of God and from your beloved St Mary’s Cathedral, we come again to be with you, all of you parts of Christ Mystical Body. I am sure the days when we can come as a community to share in the communion is not far away. The dark nights of fear and anxiety are slowly giving away. The Lord’s days are coming and the world is being saved by the blood Jesus.

Today the church invited us to contemplate the consoling words of Jesus Christ: I will not leave you as orphans. All through these COVID nightmare Jesus accompanies the frightened and confused humanity through his mighty words. Last week we heard the soothing words: Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in me. This week God tells every troubled heart: You are not an orphan. Never feel abandoned by the living, loving and liberating God.

Orphans.

What a desolate word! What is the real hell? How depressing to grow without knowing the loving embrace of the mother and safeguard of kind father! A sense of total abandonment. That is the real hell. That is a very horrible festering wound of the soul. To be abandoned is the hell.

COVID brought another kind of cruel abandonment. Thousands died, forced to be abandoned by their dear and near ones because of the intensity of infection. Their dear ones cannot come near their body and cry. Many died, unwept and unsung and their last journey was a lonely passage. COVID made all who died look like orphans – abandoned for medical reasons.

Yes, COVID shakes the foundations of faith. Many feel God has abandoned his people. They  have become orphans. Amidst that darkness of faith, Christ voice rises today: I will not leave you orphans. God never abandons. The Bible has great love for people who are orphaned or abandoned. We need to just read the passage from Isaiah (Chapter 49:15-16) which brings tears to our eyes:

Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me; the Lord has forgotten me!”

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the son of her womb? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands. (Is : 49:15-16)."

Let these words flow into your hearts, my dear brothers and sisters – even if the mother forgets you the Lord never forgets you. Even from our mother’s womb and beyond the tomb, God’s love is un-measurable,  unconditional. He is the accompanier.  

For those of you wounded by this sickness, for those families that have seen death and abandonment of their near ones, let these words heal your bleeding wounds: Can a woman forget her nursing child Even if she forgets his child, I will never forget you. For those of who feel abandoned by loss of livelihood, abandoned in isolation and quarantine centers heal yourself with the consoling thought: God is your mother. You are not abandoned, You are not orphans. Let not your hearts be troubled.

Today’s Gospel speaks further to fortify our faith. Christ promises that we are not abandoned with his ascension. The powerful Holy Spirit will come as the disciples experience the Pentecost. In every life,  the power of the Trinity flows in the form of Holy Spirit. 

Dear brothers and Sisters – Rejoice. God is not the God in the sky and comes only at the end of the world. God is in us, in each one of us. The power of the Holy Spirit takes charge of our affairs. Remember St. Paul exhorting with joy "We are the temple of the Holy Spirit."

We are the Emmanuel, the God with us. Let thousand COVID come, we are not worried because our Good Shepherd guards us amidst the valley of darkness and death. The  Holy Spirit gives us peace and total health. WE are guarded by the mighty spirit of God who created heaven and earth. No fear, no feeling of abandonment. We are not only made by God, we are made OF GOD. Alleluia. 

Let the Paschal glory strengthen each one of you with this noble thought. Let the power of the Holy Spirit cleanse your houses and hearts from all that is evil and infectious.

The Sixth Sunday Gospel also leads us into the contemplation of love. Jesus says to his disciples, "If you love me you will keep my commandments." What is Jesus great commandment? “Love one another as I loved you.”

Christianity is a four letter word: LOVE. Love is the vibrant blood of Christianity. Many abuse Christianity with the fire of hell, wrath of God, rapture and all those fearsome image of God. Christ is the visible image of the invisible Loving God. Love is the Supreme. Those who live without love are those who live like "orphans."

In this time of pandemic when human beings are afraid of one another and social distancing keeps us from our dear ones, there are many temptations to forget people below us. The pope has warned us not to abandon the poor as orphans. Pope Francis has warned that humanity can he struck by four new virus worse than the Covid. 

The four spiritual virus are:

  • Selfishness
  • Indifference
  • Disdain towards the poor and vulnerable
  • Confusion of values

COVID does not have a vaccine yet. But these spiritual virus have a powerful vaccine already and the prescription is simple: Love one another as Jesus loves us. 

Yes. This love needs to be shown in action especially during these dark times. Faith without action, the apostle James says, is empty. Catholic faith is a faith in action. We are led by the glorious example of our Pope Francis who is  always thinking of unemployed people, homeless people and the poor during this time.

We are glad as a Myanmar church we could respond in love to our brothers and sisters in suffering. Once again I laud the great services of our dioceses and religious to reach out to the poorest. Churches may be closed but the heart of Christianity is not closed. Religious, Catholic business people and dioceses have broken the bread with the hungry in the slums, in IDP camps and villages through supply of food materials to thousands of people. Our doors are opened to brothers and sisters who are in need of isolation or quarantine. Being a small church has not deterred us from reaching out. We are glad that our faith is in action. This is keeping God’s commandment of Love. We bear witness to Christ’s love through out acts of Charity.

That is the great evangelization today. Those of us who are used to seeing Christ only  in the churches, now we are in the streets, carrying his great message of love and sharing among our brothers and sisters. That is the great blessing because our sharing of resources, is not an NGO work. We work with the great humility that in this work we encounter Christ himself as the Bible affirms: When you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do it to me! We observe Love Commandment of Jesus.

In today’s Gospel Jesus assures us “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.” St. Teresa Avila  has gloriously pointed out those of us in Love with Jesus become part of his body through good works through lending our hands, feet, eyes etc. Her famous prayer gives us   a robust courage and grace:

“Christ has no body now but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

What message  does today’s Gospel give to each one of us and our families? The first reading and the second reading talks about the gift of the Holy Spirit. As Catholics we often forget the power of the indwelling Spirit in each one of us. The Holy Spirit is the second person of the Trinity. We will be preparing ourselves for the great feast of the Pentecost. That event was the start of the Church. All the illiterate disciples were empowered to establish a church that is more than 2,000 years old. The gift of the Holy Spirit is a promise Jesus makes to us today in the Gospel. Be empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the binding power in the family. The lockdown time has given to many families to know one another deeply even in the family. This also has given more time for family prayers, sharing of God’s Word. Let these times be times of anointing not fear. Let  the presence of the Holy Spirit bring to our families the spirit of unity. We shall wait in great hope for the feast of the Pentecost.

God is the ultimate good. It is to him we raise our hands today in prayer for all. Let us remember nearly four and half million people affected by this dangerous disease. Let us remember more than three hundred thousand people who died, for their eternal peace. Let us double our prayers that our country, Myanmar, may be saved from any further damages. We offer this country to the protection of Mary our Mother.

Let us pray for those who are in the refugee camps and IDP camps that the Spirit of the Lord hover over them and protect them from all evil. Let us pray for our thousands of our migrant workers who are struggling to come back. Let us all pray that all of us can come together as a family to worship together in our churches. Let us pray for every family that their health needs and financial needs be met.

This year Paschal season was a challenging season. But Christ did not abandon us. He did not make us orphans. He accompanies us patiently as he accompanied the disciples to Emmaus. He is constantly  whispering in our ears: “Let not your hearts be troubled. I will never abandon you. I am with you always. I send you the advocate who will heal you, make you new. Let us live with the encouragement of Jesus.

Let our faith help us to sail through all challenges. 

God is Good and God is Great.