Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Happy feast of the Immaculate Conception. May all blessing be on each one of you.
As I stand today in the midst of you, I deeply admire the great gift of faith of people of Myitkyina. Every year in the normal times, hundreds of you will undertake the journey of faith to Nyaung Lay Pin. Your faith has been a great witness to the other Christians of Myanmar.
Your active participation in the 500 years celebration in Yangon, your colorful presence during the Papal Visit made those celebration a vibrant witness of Christianity to the world. The Pope honored you by holding the crozier made from the Kachin lands.
Our first duty today is to pray for the diocese. As we came together to pray for our great Archbishop Paul Grawng, we prayed that he continues to intercede for this diocese. We are here to thank Bishop Francis for the service he rendered to this diocese. All of us are indebted to him for the growth of the diocese. Let our prayers accompany our dear Bishop Francis.
Today we all have come to thank Our Lady. These are challenging times: COVID dances through the streets of the world. I know many of you are also devotees of Mother Mary of Good health of Velanganni.
We surrender ourselves and the humanity to hear healing hand. Today we celebrate the message she gave in her Lourdes apparition: “I am immaculate.” God saved her from the slavery of sin.
Today we come to pray for delivering us not only from our weakness for sin, but from the wars, from displacement, from poverty, from the threat of virus. May her intercession bring us to total joy to all of us and to this diocese.
Mary’s life is like the life of many of us. She was not rich. She was not highly educated. She was not from powerful families.
The Gospel just says: Angel Gabriel was sent to a maiden named Mary. The Gospel at least says: Joseph is from the house of David. Mary is just Mary, like many of us. We have no big name, no big ancestry. But to this simple people, Angel Gabriel says: "Hail Mary, Full of Grace! The Lord’s favor is with you."
Yes. This is the message I wish to bring to everyone of your heart. Whatever your situation be, wherever you are living, the Lord’s messenger says to you: Hail, full of Grace because the Lord’s Favor is with each one of us.
Once we realize we are not children of great kings, children of great families, but we are children of a living, loving and liberating God, then we glorify God with Mary our mother, saying: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed. ( Luke 1: 45-48).
There are Christian denominations that have difficulty with Mary. Mary has no difficulty with any one. Because by offering her generous "yes" to the mission of saving the whole humanity, Mary became the union of divine nature and human nature that came in the form of Jesus.
In the Virgin Mary, the Son of God assumed human nature in its entirety, body and soul, in virtue of the divine omnipotence, for the power of the Most High overshadowed her and was made flesh (Jn 1:14). By the true and real motherhood of the Virgin Mary, the Redeemer was united with the human race. So, she is also called as co-redemptrix.
We are not here to contest the theological notion with other denominations. We are here, today as Catholics in Myitkyina diocese. We wish to see the message of our mother in our lives.
The life of our Mother mirrors our lives in many ways: She was poor and came from a powerless family. She belonged to economic class like many of our people. She and her betrothed husband had to work every day to meet their basic needs. They were refugees like hundreds of our people, they fled Israel to Egypt as refugees. When they returned they lived as internally displaced people. Jesus grew up in that powerless and poor family.
But this simple family was blessed a hundred fold by God. God’s way are not our ways. (Is: 55:8) He chose to be simple to shame the mighty. (1 Cor 1:27). By saying yes to Gabriel, our Lady not only offered her body but her will and intellect and became the first missionary of Jesus' Mission.
As we contemplate the immaculate conception of Mary, we see her relevance to our Myitkyina diocese.
- Her role in reconciliation
- Her role in Healing
- Her role in proclamation
- Her role in the suffering and redemption of mankind
1. Her role in reconciliation:
On this feast day, we commemorate the dogma of Immaculate Conception. We remember our first parents broke the covenant with God. Even then God promised that the reconciliation will come through a woman. The Bible was explicit in the reconciliation role of Mary.
Jesus "who is in the bosom of the Father" (Jn 1,18) was "born of woman" (Gal 4,4). He who was "in the form of God" put on the "form of servant" (Phil 2,6f). He who "reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature" (Heb 1,3) came "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Rom 8,3). For indeed "the Word was made flesh" (Jn 1,14).
Jesus reconciled this broken relationship of humanity with the Father. St Paul says, For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Repairing the relationship is one of the great grace we got from Jesus. Mary was his mother in this reconciliation work. As we gather as the people of God, the biggest grace we ask for is reconcile all broken relationships. We need reconciliation with nature, with God and mostly than anything, we look for three levels of relationships
- Family level reconciliation: That we may forgive our family members, rebuild relationships like the Holy Family. There is no place for keeping hatred in mind.
- Community and Parish level Reconciliation: Jesus greatest commandment is only one: Love one another; if you love one another they will know you are my disciples. As a community we all need reconciliation.
- Diocese level Reconciliation: St Paul uses the great example of Body of Christ as the metaphor of the Church. (1 Corinthians 12:27). As a diocese we are a family. Myitkyina Church is blessed in so many ways – Kachins are great people, generous people, people who were willing to resist any attempt to dilute human dignity.
The diocese faced many challenges: war, displacement, drugs, loss of lands, mines and conflict with outsiders, exodus of our youngsters to nearby countries seeking unsafe livelihood, the risk of human trafficking. All these were faced by God’s people in the time of the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. Our support comes from the Lord. So we need to learn to reconcile all our past bitterness and move towards a hope-filled future.
God has blessed this diocese with resources above the ground and below the ground. This is the real golden world. This is the land “flowing with milk and honey.” That is the promise of God (Exodus 3:8). Not one time, 20 times he promised to his people in the Old Testament. God always wanted unity and reconciliation among the his chosen people. Let us listen to God’s call for reconciliation.
2. Mother Mary as the Healer: On this great feast day we pray for healing: inner healing, spiritual healing, physical healing. Mary was instrumental in asking her son to perform the first miracle at the marriage at Cana. Till today she continues to be the unceasing intercessor for each one of us.
For those of us who went to Lourdes, or Velanganni, the miracle of healing that has happened through her intervention, not only for the Christians, but for all those who were sick, is a wonder to see. She is our healer. We pray earnestly as the pandemic is threatening the whole human family.
Pope Francis has pleaded with Mother Mary to be our intercessor. We pray that she may heal our families, our community and our diocese. Let make us whole, healed.
3. Mother Mary as the Proclaimer of the God’s Kingdom: Mother Mary is the first Missionary of Jesus Christ even as he was dwelling in the womb. Her Magnificat is a great proclamation: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior."
Whenever I come to northern dioceses, I am reminded of the friction between various Christian denominations. One of the accusations against Catholics is our lack of interest in the Word of God and our lack of zeal in evangelizing people.
We learn from Mary that she not only carried the Word, Jesus in her womb, but she proclaimed him in her life, through her visitation to Elizabeth, through her accompaniment till the end of Jesus life. “Go and proclaim” is the last commandment Jesus gave to his disciple.
I wish to see our diocese becoming a really very active Christian diocese that grows in word, proclaims the word and becomes a missionary.
As Pope Benedict calls each Christians, the evangelized becoming the evangelizers, I foresee the next few years our diocese becoming a vibrant evangelizing diocese, going not only to other dioceses but even to the other countries.
You must always remember, Kachins live in three countries, divided by borders. Let the Word of God unite us all.
4. Mother Mary, Accompanier of the Cross: Mary never fails. Mary never abandons. Look at the Cross. When all the disciples ran away, all the people who benefited from Jesus ran away, Mother Mary never abandoned her Son. She was the consolation to her son. As he opened his eyes to the world in Bethelhem, his eyes saw her mother and as he died, his eyes saw his mother standing faithfully under the Cross.
The same mother is standing with us today in our diocese. She is faithful to all of us, whether we are faithful or not. Those who trust in her will see her in the times of sorrow, interceding for us in our time of sorrow.
Today the whole Church celebrates the purity of Mary. Sin never touched her before or during and after her existence. She is the incarnation of purity. She is love incarnate. She is compassion incarnate. She is the perfect human being, so she is proclaimed the Mother of God.
Let that pure and loving Mother of our redeemer be our accompanier as we sail through many challenges. She will work wonders through his Son. She will heal us, build us, and make us whole.
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo
Archbishop of Yangon