Nine Journeys of Mary, Nine Journeys of our People

Homily of Archbishop Charles Bo SDB, 8th. December. St. Mary’s Cathedral – Yangon –  Myanmar

The Bible  projects Mary's Nine Journeys.  They talk of her mission. Her intervention in the lives of the people. Those Nine journeys are also the journeys of our people in new Myanmar..

Nine Journeys of Mary, Nine Journeys of our People

1. "Thereupon Mary set out, proceeding in haste into hill country to a town of Judah (Luke 1:39).
Mary Proceeded to Hill country – Most of our people come from hill country. Our women are hill country people. Nature was their God before they became Christians. Animism animated their lives – nats -the spirits were  found everywhere – water, tree, land etc.  All  created being were united with one another.  The sense of God pervading every where continues in our faith. Women carry the torch of faith in the remotest  villages with every day rosary, divine mercy prayers.  But these very mountains are  destroyed by companies now and  rich people are stealing our ancestral homes and the abodes of spirits.

2. Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned home (Luke 1:56).
Hospitality is the hall mark of our people. Welcoming strangers, hosting them as their own kin is still found in the villages. Our culture is nourished by women whose warmth and  generosity is legendary.  But even that was hunted down by military intelligence who barged into our houses at night. 

3. And so Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea to register with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child (Luke 2: 4-5). 
Last sixty years, we lived as a people without  a face. We were respected for our papers, the documents and  the identity cards. We were discriminated for our colour, our  ethnicity. In a nation that  acknowledges only one race, Christians were exploited. Women were more vulnerable, abused for obtaining documents. We were trafficked  by evil men because that magic documents  were not with us. We were abused in China, Thailand and Malaysia because we did not have a paper. We were pushed into  modern forms of slavery because we were denied our  identify papers.  Even today thousands of women do not have  identity papers and their movements continue to be curtailed.

4. The angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph with the command..and Joseph got up and took the child and his mother and left that night for Egypt (Matthew 2:14).
We are a nation of refugees, we were the  nation of Exodus. Three million of us  do not live in our homes. We have  many names, illegal, refugees and IDPs. In all these places the feminization of  human agony is apparent.  Our vulnerabilities remain our expendability. Know our agony. Most of us are displaced from our place of birth, thrown out because the military wanted us to go, companies wanted our place.   IN all these  women took the brunt – left to tend the families as single parent houses, forced to leave education,  exposed to three major disease of Myanmar –  Malaria, HIV/Aids and  TB.  Chinese men who do not have enough women (single child policy, 41 million men without women to marry) rent our women in human trafficking.  Thousands eke out a misery life in Thailand and  Malaysia.

5. When the day came to purify them according to the Law of Moses, the couple brought him up to Jerusalem. (Luke 2:22).
The customs that  control us is suffocating.  Non Burmese are second class citizens. Our culture, identity and  resources are  destroyed. We need to identify our  patriotism by becoming one with  one nation, one religion and one language theory. Women continued to be considered as second class citizens. All the religions  consider women as devotees and not disciples. Ritual purity keeps them away from the rights. Nuns from all religions live much poorer than priests and monks.  Religions continue to confer undue spiritual power on men reducing us to  temple and church workers.  Holy Father  Francis encourages the Church to give more place to women and women to take part in decision making.

6. They returned to Galilee and their own town of Nazareth (Luke v. 39).
We wish this happens in our lives of our  sons and daughters. Millions are stuck in Thailand and Malaysia. In many of our  places   our Nazareth has disappeared as army camps,  rubber plantations  and   property of big companies. Even now,  lands are confiscated from the poor. We cannot return easily. We are  a people of exodus  and in the desert  journeying towards a promised land. The Israelites took forty years in the wilderness. We took sixty years and when is the time coming for us?

7. When he was twelve they went up for the celebration of Passover as was their custom (Luke 2:42)
We celebrate merrily despite  decades of oppression, just like Jews did under Roman Colonization. Our lands were colonized by the military that came from nowhere and claimed rights to everything including our life.  But this did not deter us from celebrating all festivals. Celebration was a sign of resistance to us.  The oppression  could never take away the smile from our face.  Our pop singers whose haunting melodies  brought  tears to us kept alive a nation's soul stirring  agony in the songs.   Military arrested our  singers but the caged birds continued to sing defying arrogance of power.

8. They returned to Jerusalem in search of him (Luke 2:45)
Yes. We are a nation on search. Thousands who disappeared. Thousands who were taken away after the mid night knock at the door.  Over 150,000 lives were lost during the Cyclone Nargis attack. Those who died in 88 revolution, those who disappeared.  Mostly  women, mothers and sisters are searching for their husbands, brothers and sons.  A nation in search of itself.  The  2007 saffron revolution took hundreds of youth to unknown death camps. Many monks too perished in that secret war.

9. Near the cross of Jesus there stood his mother (John 19:25)
Mary's journey ended   on the way of the Cross.  Women of Myanmar start their journey with the  carrying the cross. Every birth in a nation without any rural health care is a  way of the cross.   Girl  child nutrition is another way of the cross. Her  attending the school is the way of the Cross, her continuation in higher school is a way of the cross. Getting a job that pays equally men and women is a way of the cross. Infected with  all the diseases and living without   proper medical care is a way of the cross, dying young  is a way of the cross. For hundreds of women, visiting prisons where their sons and fathers and husbands are incarcerated for 20 years  etc is a way of the Cross. We are like Mary in many ways.

The miracle of Myanmar is a woman.  A woman who melted the hard rock of arrogance, a woman who could not be  subdued by an army of 500,000 well armed men. Neither their  war machines, thousands of  gunships and  fighter gets could shake the  faith of this woman, the icon of  the moral power of women in Myanmar. Despite her 20 years in prison and her privations, she showed the power of truth .  Like Gandhi she never had an army, never preached violence.

It is like Mandela who practiced and talked the key values such as freedom, justice, Love, peace, hope, generosity, courage, forgiveness, tolerance, respect, caring, acceptance and compassion. He was against hatred, despair, discrimination and bitterness. 

Mary could joyfully proclaim: the Lord has done marvels for me.   Like Gandhi, like Pope John Paul, like Pope Francis.

Mary and many others in history, became the instruments of God, ' throw the mighty from the thrones' and ' raised the lowly'. Mary  has ignited hope. There is a new horizon  in our country.


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