Greetings in the powerful name of Jesus. We walk through the Holy Season of Lent. Yet 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 the Lenten season for the prayer for peace.
The streets of Myanmar have seen so much of pain, suffering, and resistance. Even today the streets will be full. It looks like an unending Way of the Cross. Will the Cross end in resurrection?
Slowly violent people seemed to disturb 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 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 the second week of Lent. Lent is the time for self-purification; getting away from the ravages of sin which is self-destruction. Those who try to destroy others, end up by destroying the world and peace and ultimately themselves. That is the message of Lent. Only a redemptive love, as shown by Christ on the Cross, will result in resurrection. Let not hate overtake this nation. Only Karuna and Metta can bring peace.
Abraham was called upon to sacrifice his son; Abraham was a Father. 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 a 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. Patience is needed when we look for a promised land. We cannot build a nation on the heaps of ash burnt in impotent hatred of one another. Sacrifices are needed. Not killing one another.
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 make Abraham a leader. It is in selflessness to the level of getting rid of one’s own passion for his children that cleansed himself to be the leader of a great nation. Only those who are faithful can become successful leaders. Others have become footnotes of history.
Great leaders in Bible give us the great art of being true leaders: true leaders let go.
Abraham was asked to let go the land he was living, he was asked to let go 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 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 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 a leader, you must serve. Service is the greatest power, not guns.
Letting go is the freedom the leaders need to nurture. Not only the leaders. Every one of us get freedom only when we let go. Letting go is the core principle of Lent. Letting go 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 to let go of power. But never let go 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. In this country, 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. When God’s time comes no monster can stand.
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 Isaac’s life. 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.” Isaac 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 topical, it reverberates the events of these days :
Jesus transfiguration. What transfiguration we seek in Myanmar today? How relevant to us today? We seek all the confusion, all darkness, all hatred will 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 toward a land of peace and prosperity. We are waiting for decades. Has our journey started? Is there a promised land?
- Elijah to the Jews was the messianic prophet who was 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 a messiah of 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. Hatred wins nothing.
For the last one month we have pleaded with everyone: Peace is the only way; peace is possible. Pope Francis has called for the 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 put a new being, a new heart. Lent calls us to transfigure into God’s children. But transfiguration is a challenge in the social media era. 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 a supreme sacrifice, 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 the disciples we are not only to be engulfed by the magnificence of the dream: we need to return to the 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 the Garden of Eden with so much resources. But it has seen so much suffering, so much of 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 self 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. Let us 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. Make peace our destiny, not conflict. Arms are useless. Rearm ourselves with reconciliation and dialogue. Myanmar’s Mount Tabor needs to be climbed with patience, forbearance, if we want to witness transfiguration. Evil needs to go, but cannot be destroyed by another evil.
I wish to urge each one of you to pray for five transfigurations of this nation and in 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.
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.
This is a homily delivered by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon for the Second Sunday of Lent.