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.