2016-03-26 12:05:00

Easter message of Cardinal Bo of Myanmar

Cardinal Charles Bo of Myanmar has issued a message for Easter this year, drawing from Christ’s Resurrection the hope of freedom, ‎peace, prosperity and human development for his nation.  ‎ “This is the  season of Resurrection. This is the season of Hope to my people.  Let ‎the people of Myanmar celebrate this tree of hope,” the archbishop of Yangon wrote in his message.  ‎ Cardinal Bo drew parallels between the tree of knowledge of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the Cross of Jesus on Calvary, that brought the hope of salvation for mankind following the despair and hopelessness of Good Friday, a story that is reflected in the recent history of Myanmar.   In his long message, Myanmar’s first cardinal, among other things, urged the nation’s leaders to heal the wound of discrimination against the ethnic ‎and religious minorities, warning “no justice no peace. Good Friday will continue for this nation.”

Below is the full text of Cardinal Charles Bo’s Easter message:

We are washed by the blood of Jesus.

Dear Brothers and Sisters

Easter breaks forth like a river in the long desert.   It is a very special Easter today to the people of Myanmar.  The river of democracy is slowly spreading its splendor in the long desert of  hopelessness.   We people of Myanmar  today  celebrate Easter with signs of resurrection around us.  It is the early morning of Easter in Myanmar.  Happy Easter.

Christ who was raised on the Cross, the tree of  torture has resurrected.  The darkness of the Good Friday is being dispelled by Christ. The Cross becomes the tree of hope. Our faith started with the tree, the tree of knowledge, the tree in the Garden of Eden, the tree of fallen nature.   But that poisonous tree of Adam and Eve is  replaced by the salvific tree of the second Adam.  Christ who was killed on the Cross, through his blood has washed the sins of humanity.  Hatred has given way to love.  Vengeance has given way to forgiveness and reconciliation.   Jesus reconciles us today to the Father.  For a sin filled  human nature, Christ death was a purification. As Peter  extols with Joy :  He himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteous  - by his wounds  you were healed.” ( 1 Peter 2: 24).  That is the message of Easter :  Oh sinful humanity, Oh hateful humanity, your sins are forgiven and your hatred is turned into hope by the extra ordinary sacrifice of  Jesus and his blood.   This is the season of hope.  In this world of suffocating darkness of hope, history proves that resurrection is the hope that continues in the human hearts and in the human history.

History   is full of  men who brought this hope  of resurrection through their noble acts.  Think of Abraham Lincoln.  For thousands of  black slaves buried in the tombs of slavery, he was  to announce a resurrection of  freedom.  But white hatred thirsted for his blood, as the Jews thirsted for the blood of Jesus.  Lincoln was  killed, not on the Cross, but by a  bullet of hatred. But his blood proved to be stronger.   It  started  the washing of the racial hatred  of Americans.  Streaks of resurrection  pierced through the dark clouds of hatred.

Martin Luther King Jr,  had a dream.  A dream that human beings would not be judged by the colour of their skins but by their character.  For millions of African Americans he was the hope, the light set on the city of hope.  But hatred, white supremacists’ anger  thirsted for his blood. He was also raised on the tree of hatred and killed with a bullet.  But his innocent blood has  washed the hatred. Today a black man occupies the White house, once considered  an impossibility. For  millions of black Americans Obama is a sign that  peoples enslaved in tombs of  despair will rise again like Jesus who won over his death.

Nelson Mandela bore on his body innumerable  tortures and humiliations.  When he was released he was to  empty the tombs of hatred by calling for reconciliation among races. By a single act of reconciliation,  Mandela proved to be signs of resurrection to a long suffering nation.

Myanmar is not left behind.  Think of General Aung San.  He was working for an integral liberation of Economic and political freedom.  Even before the dawn of  freedom, his blood was spilled.   The country was healed  of the mutual hatred among the people.  Myanmar is today can claim to be a nation because of the blood of Aung San.

Today we see another resurrection:  Resurrection of hope in a frail woman : Aung San Sui Kyi. She was also raised on the tree of suffering for more than 15 years in the jail.  Darkness was penetrating Myanmar for more than 50years.   Daw Aung San Sui Kyi’s suffering and her fortitude amidst the suffering has brought the resurrection of  freedom.  Today Myanmar can wake up into a dawn of hope because  people like Aung San Sui Kyi are willing to be wounded but using that suffering as a redemptive suffering. A new nation is born today and nurtures the resurrection of hope of freedom, peace, prosperity and human development.

This is the  season of Resurrection. This is the season of Hope to my people.  Let the people of Myanmar celebrate this tree of hope. 

We celebrate today the victory of  cross. The tree of salvation.  Christ was wounded on the Cross and his blood flowed from the Cross.  Cross was a scandal to the Jews. As St Paul proudly proclaims  we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” ( I Cor 1 : 23) The tree of the cross was not a tree of shame, but a tree of salvation.   The first Adam disobeyed when he sought the tree of knowledge.   People in the desert disobeyed Moses and God but they were saved by the serpent raised like a tree.  Christ identified himself with the tree.  He laid in the wooden manger as a child, was a carpenter working with the wood and he would die on a wood, Cross. 

All over the world trees are like Jesus.  Trees take the toxic  carbon in the air and convert them into life giving oxygen.  Trees save life.  Christ is the  tree of salvation.   He takes the toxic sins on himself  as  St Peter says : He bore our sins in His Body on the Cross, so that we might die  sin and live in righteousness.  ( 1 Peter 2: 24).  He is the eternal tree of life.   By  taking our wounds he gives back our life. We are healed by his wounds.

Easter calls for this understanding.  To move out of evil, the power of sin.    At the personal challenge, our life can be like the tree of Knowledge of the  Genesis whose  toxic fruits made our first parents to  lose their relationship with God.  Sin is crouching at the door, waiting to devour anyone.  (I Pet.5:8).  Often we have crucified ourselves into self defeating pessimism. ‘sour pusses’ as the Pope calls us, people with a cemetery mentality of seeing everything in a depressing lens, never allowing life to establish itself.   The defeatist mentality  is a tomb that seals our lives and refuses to  open to the spirit of forgiveness.  Judas Iscariot  buried himself in the tomb of guilt whilst  Peter saw God’s mercy and rose from his tomb of despair.    Those of us who believe in the resurrection  are called to come out of our self made tombs of despair, hatred and  hopelessness.

The year of mercy is a clarion call.   The Pope calls us to be merciful with ourselves.  Be merciful as your  heavenly Father is merciful   ( Lk 6:36).   For many of us buried in the tomb of  guilt and sin,  Pope  Francis is calling us to return to the Lord in  forgiveness. “ No sin is greater than God’s mercy” says the Holy Father.  Forgiving others, reconciling with those whom we wounded and adopting a positive attitude are  signs of  people of Resurrection.

As a Catholic Community we  need to be signs of hope to this nation.  We were persecuted, we were buried in the tombs of poverty, oppression and  denial of rights.  For many of us it has been a long way of the Cross. We were  Good Friday people sometimes doubting  where there  was a Holy Saturday. We even wondered whether there would be an Easter Sunday in  this country.   But  God is God of History.  He speaks through the signs of  times.  I strongly believe that  Myanmar’s  resurrection from its painful past is  occurring.  We as a community need to stand witness to that Easter of hope.  In the recently concluded national seminar on Nation Building,  the church has planned to contribute towards nation building  through peace and reconciliation,  human development through education and affirmation of the rights of our indigenous brothers and sisters.

This nation has been wounded by man made and natural disasters.    Myanmar needs healing.  Past cannot be undone.  So many  groups have been wounded.  As St John talks of the conditions of early Christians in the book of Revelations :    And the Lord  said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  (Rev 7:14)   our country men and women have coming out of  great tribulations.   This nation was  crucified on the cross of  injustice.  Refugees, unsafe migrants, war affected people, the poor, drug  victims and human trafficking victims. How can we forget hundreds of  our country men  and women who languished in jails or even those who gave their life for the freedom of this country. 

The blood of the lamb makes all wounds healed. All robes soaked in blood of hatred.  They are to be soaked in the blood of the lamb and  reconciled.  Past is  a pestering wound in this nation.  But  as a nation we need to heal.   Forgiveness need to lead towards peace with justice.    Jesus calls for  ‘forgiving seventy times seven’  ( Mt 18:22). 

This nation has seen the way of the cross, the wounded Christ is brought down from the cross from 2010.  We witness streaks of hope and resurrection.  But  all of us, leaders of this nation, ethnic groups, the people of Myanmar need to learn from history.  

Myanmar started as a peaceful nation.  The  preferential treatment of one religion  in this country from 1956  was the first wound. The ill treatment of  other religions  have caused the chronic conflicts and  displacements.   Srilanka which took the same path  and saw conflict and blood bath, has a leader who is willing to  heal and reconcile.  That nation is journeying towards peace and prosperity.  The  leaders of this nation need to heal this wound of discrimination of the ethnic and religious minorities.  No justice no peace. Good Friday will continue for this nation.   Injustice need to be washed by the blood of reconciliation.

Historical wounds need to heal.  IN the 1960s an arrogant military power snatched the educational institutions ran by Christians.   Christians were targeting the poor and those in the margin for education.   Denial of this right  for the last  sixty years has resulted in making this nation  a partly educated nation.   Education is a fundamental right.  A deliberate policy of not educating our youngsters  exposed them to modern forms of slavery in the nearby countries, to drug menace, to human trafficking.    Youth is a wounded generation.   True reconciliation is possible. We buried three generation of our people without a good education.   I urge all concerned “ do not crucify our youth in   the tomb of  self pity”  offer them the  hopes of  a bright tomorrow through quality  education.

Pope Francis has  extolled the church to be a Easter message to the poor.  The third message of Year of Mercy  is to be compassionate to the Poor and the vulnerable people. Despite all the restrictions,  Myanmar Church has never hesitated to serve the poor, especially through the boarding schools, through Leprosy  asylums, HIV centres, through its numerous programs. Following the guidelines of Pope Francis in the  JOY OF THE GOSPEL, Church will reach out those in the ‘margins’ of the society and bring the hope of Easter.

To all my Christian brothers and Sisters,  Happy Easter once again.  You are Christians and Myanmar citizens.   Confidently take your place in  this new nation. We are not a good Friday people, we are a Easter people. We generate hope.  Let not our  small size brighten us.  Always remember  the words of Jesus

Jesus said :  Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."  (Mathew 17 : 20-21)

Yes, my dear brothers and sisters,  as Easter people let us assume this role of moving mountains of human tragedies and bring a  hope a new Myanmar of peace, prosperity and fellowship.  Be the people of faith and hope.  Let us move the mountains.  


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