“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 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 color of their skins but by their characte. 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 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 mad 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 centers, 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. HAPPY EASTER!
Cardinal Charles Bo.