Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, used his homily for the Second Sunday of Lent to issue a passionate call for the transfiguration of a nation and its people.
Stressing the need to “return to the hard life of creating hope and peace”, Cardinal Bo said that all Myanmar’s people should enter into a “mindset of reconciliation and dialogue” and, like the disciples, “get down from our own mountains of virtual reality and come down and meet one another as brothers and sisters”.
Conversion is the pivotal message of Lent.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
Greetings in the powerful name of Jesus. We walk through the holy season of Lent. The message of Christmas still is relevant to us: Peace to all men and women of Good Will in this land. We need peace more than ever. This Golden Land is a blessed land but the greatest blessing is the blessing of peace. We offer Lent season for the prayer for Lent.
The streets of Myanmar have seen so much of pain, suffering and resistance. Slowly hatred seemed to infiltrate the peaceful marches. We pray that no violence happens. Innocent blood may not be spilt on this land. We are all sons and daughters of the same land, same mother Myanmar and we need to exercise patience and tolerance. We offer this mass for peace to this country. I have repeated many times: Hatred never drives away hatred: only love. Darkness never expels darkness; only a light can dispel darkness. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Let us all believe in the power of love and reconciliation.
Today we walk through second week of Lent. Lent is the time for self-purification; getting away from the ravages of sin which is self-destruction. Today’s reading shows us a wonderful witness of Love and Obedience. Abraham was called upon to sacrifice his son; Abraham was a Father. Yet he knew in moments of God’s call love will triumph at the end. Despite the gruesome demand to sacrifice his son, Abraham believes in the enduring love of God and the long term good of all. He knew when God demands, he gives back hundred fold. God was preparing Abraham for a promised land. Abraham was humble enough to understand the sacrifices needed to be father of a nation.
Owning a nation does not come as a result of violence. It comes through sacrifice, obedience to the will of the majority of the people. Abraham was a glorious example. He never doubted God. He knew only a people schooled in sacrifice and obedience can lead a people into a promised land. Egoism, selfishness, care for oneself alone can never made Abraham a leader. It is in selflessness to the level of getting rid of one’s own passion for his children he cleansed himself to be the leader of a great nation. Only those who are faithful can become successful leaders. Others have become the footnote of history.
Great leaders in the Bible give us the great art of being true leaders. True leaders let go:
Abraham was asked to let go of the land in which he was living, he was asked to let go of the most precious gift of his life: his own son.
Moses was asked to lead the people; in the last moment he was asked to let go of the privilege of entering the promised land. These are true leaders.
Their leadership came at a great cost: Moses left the palace, he moved from comfort zone to conflict zone. Abraham was asked to sacrifice the family members. True leaders do not worry about the families. They live by Jesus’ words: If you want to be the first you must be last. If you want to be leader you must serve.
Letting go is the freedom the leaders need to nurture. Not only the leaders. Every one of us gets freedom only when we let go. Letting go is the core principle of Lent. Letting go of our passions, our addictions and our prejudices and unresolved emotions – that is the message to every family.
The lesson from those leaders is not only ‘let go of your power’, but ‘never let go of the Faith’.
Abraham believed and become the father of a nation and Faith. The moving story of Abraham getting ready to sacrifice his only son is the story of most of us. Often we are called upon to sacrifice our own designs, plans and thoughts for the greater good of others. Covid and now Coup – we can be shattered. But it is the time to become like Abraham. God will never abandon us. God is the light amidst encircling darkness.
The Gospel reading puts everything in perspective. If Abraham was mad to agree to sacrifice his only Son and eventually did not sacrifice him, God went further. He gave his only Son, Jesus to be sacrificed on the Cross. For the redemption and eternal life of all of us. The whole reflection today is not about Abraham or Isaac, it is about God’s indulgent love to humanity. At the last moment, God sent an angel with the lamb to save Issac. But when Christ cried from the Cross to his Father ‘Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani’ – My God, My God, Why have you abandoned me? (Matt. 27:46; psalm 22:1) God did not respond. That is Love. That is God. God is always faithful to us. St Paul tells us in the second reading: the great quality of God is his faithfulness. “God’s faithfulness is shown in his offering of his own Son for our salvation.” Issac was saved; Jesus was not saved because God is faithful to the promise made to first parents and through the prophets. God is more faithful; God never forgets us; he will do anything for the love he has for each one of us: Even the mother forgets the child. I will never forget you, says the God of Love.
Today’s Gospel is so contextual.
Jesus transfiguration. What transfiguration do we seek in Myanmar today?
How relevant is it to us today? We seek all the confusion, darkness, and hatred to go away and our country, the famous Golden Land, will be transfigured into a land of peace and prosperity.
There were two great biblical personalities present with Jesus during the Transfiguration: Moses, the man who led the suffering Hebrews out of slavery and took them to the Promised Land. We are praying for leaders who will lead our people out of all kinds of suffering towards a land of peace and prosperity.
Elijah to the Jews is the messianic prophet who is a forerunner to Jesus like John the Baptist. His work is making peace before the Messiah appears. Elijah is remembered as one of the most important prophets of Israel who helped the Israelites stay faithful to Yahweh. Some Jews believed that Elijah’s return would signal the coming of the Messiah for the Jewish people. This belief is evidenced in the question posed by Jesus’ disciples after they have witnessed the Transfiguration.
Today we need the presence of Elijah. We need peace. We need God’s Kingdom on earth. We need Jesus, the Prince of Peace on this nation. As Christians our first duty is to bring peace. Hatred has no place in Christ. No hatred wins anything. For the last one month we have pleaded with everyone: Peace is the only way; peace is possible. Pope Francis has called for resolution of all differences through dialogue. Those who call for confrontation do not wish good for this nation. Let all of us become Elijah proclaiming peace, lighting a lamp of hope amidst all darkness.
Lent calls us to a new being, a new heart. Lent calls us to transfigure into God’s children.
Social media, especially Facebook, is a virtual hell where hatred rules supreme; good people become violent in that virtual hell, destroying others. Humanity is disfigured in Facebook. On this day when we contemplate transfiguration, we need to be extremely cautious about virtual reality and our mental health. Transfiguration was a virtual reality. It deeply impacted the disciples who were participants in it. They went back to announce the Good News.
On this day we also pray for the transfiguration of this nation. For the last seventy years we are looking for the grace of transfiguration of this nation. Like Jesus, leaders can make supreme sacrifices, like Moses our leaders can lead this nation to peace and prosperity. Like Elijah our nation can proclaim a new Kingdom of hope ruled by great men of peace and wisdom. This remains a dream, but like disciples we are not only to be engulfed by the magnificence of the dream, we need to return to hard life of creating hope and peace. Let it start in each one of our hearts.
I want to pray for this nation. This nation was created like Garden of Eden with so many resources. But it has seen so much suffering, so much war, so many deaths. Like Abraham we look for a promised land. The promised land comes when we are ready to sacrifice what we consider very dear to us. Many times, our fixation on our own righteousness closes all doors of dialogue and reconciliation. Many of us may be willing to sacrifice even our sons and daughters but not our convictions even when we realize they are impractical and not working.
Conversion is the transfiguration of each one of us. Conversion is the pivotal message of Lent. Let us challenge ourselves to see one another in a better light. There is a new world possible, a new Myanmar possible, a nation without conflict is possible when this nation turns around and transfigures into the glory it deserves.
I wish to urge each one of you to pray for these transfigurations of this nation and each one of us:
From hatred and violence, let this nation transfigure into a paradise of peace and tranquility.
From mutual distrust, let this nation transfigure into a nation of love and solidarity.
From being a poor nation despite great resources, let it be transfigured into a nation of prosperity sharing the wealth with all.
From conflicts over power, prestige and status, let this nation be transfigured into a nation of democracy, fraternity and equality.
From all kinds of exploitation let this nation transfigure into a nation of environmental justice and ecological justice.
Let our present suffering be a sign that this nation is in the throes of a new birth. Let all of us enter into a mindset of reconciliation and dialogue. A new nation is possible, let it be born through Love. Like the disciples let us get down from our own mountains of virtual reality and come down and meet one another as brothers and sisters.
Let wars and conflicts become history. Let this nation be transfigured. Let a new nation be born!