‘Bring Mercy to a wounded world’ Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon says in his Reflections and Plan of Action ahead of the commencement of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Blessed are the merciful for they shall see God ( Mt 5:7)
My dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ, the most Merciful Savior, I greet all of you as the Church gets ready for a very great extra ordinary Jubilee year of Mercy. Our Holy Father, always the prophet and the evangelizer to the modern world, has announced this year of grace with the theme “ Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).The official proclamation of this year of grace is named Misericordiae Vultus ( The Face of Mercy).Jesus Christ is the face of God, the face that brought to the world not the condemnation but a saving redemption. ( John 3:16). When Jesus exhorted his disciples “Go and Proclaim the Good News” (Mt 28:18) he is urging us reflect Jesus face of Mercy to all our brothers and sisters. Bring Mercy to a wounded world – that is the message of this Special Jubilee year.
This extra ordinary Jubilee year of Mercy begins on the 8th of December 2015 and finishes on 20th November 2016. This is also the 50th year of Second Vatican Council that brought so much renewal in the life of the Church. A Jubilee year is a special year of prayer to seek God’s blessings and His pardon. In the ancient Hebrew tradition the Jubilee year which was celebrated every 50 years was meant to restore equality among all the children of Israel, offering new possibilities to families who lost their property and even their personal freedom. The Catholic church has given to the Hebrew jubilee a more spiritual significance. It consists in a general pardon, an indulgence open to all, and the possibility to renew one’s relationship with God and neighbor. Following the example of the Vatican II we are urged make our church an open church, a welcoming church, a church that neither condemns nor judges but a Church that is beacon of Mercy in the stormy sea of hatred.
More than ever the world stands in need of mercy to one another. The world is full of hatred and blood shed today. In the name of religion vengeance killing is on the rise. Wars are producing millions of refugees. Europe has thousands of refugees pleading for food and shelter. Despite all good news about elections, Myanmar too stands in need of mercy and compassion. As I write this pastoral letter, more than 100 poor people have been buried alive in the landslides in the Jade mines. After five decades of wars, displacement, poverty and migration, our country needs mercy. Mercy to those who suffered and mercy to those who caused those suffering. Our nation needs healing through mercy. Christians need to heal this nation through mercy.
Our planet is wounded. Mercy for our bleeding planet is urgent. Through his great encyclical on Climate, Laudato Si Pope has called for mercy and compassion on this planet our common home. We are called to incorporate mercy into three levels :
· Seeking mercy and forgiveness at the personal level
· Proclaiming Mercy and compassion to all, especially those who are weak, vulnerable and the lost
· Reconciling through mercy for our wounded planet.
Pope Francis’ guides us : “How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the Balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the kingdom of God is always amidst us.” (MisericordiaeVultus)
1. Seeking Mercy and Forgiveness at the individual level: All human beings sin. But salvation comes only to those who believe in God’s mercy. Judas and Peter committed sins. Judas did not believe in God’s mercy. Peter believed in God’s mercy. No sin is so big. “ Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever to forgive” ( Pope Francis). Christ is the Good Shepherd, seeking all the Lost Sheep.
Counting on God’s mercy, all of us need to seek Mercy and forgiveness through the Sacrament of confession. It is the sacrament of Mercy. We need to cleanse ourselves from the sin of judging others. We need to develop an attitude of understanding. As we are aware our Buddhistbrothers and Sisters in Myanmar have two eyes of spiritual attainment : Mercy and compassion ( Mitta and Karuna). MettaBhavana is a way of developing loving kindness towards all. We need this grace. St Paul affirms this : Not by our works but by his Mercy we are saved ( Titus 3:5). In this jubilee year, our attitude needs to be one of loving kindness, forgiveness to those who live with us. By renewing ourselves spiritually we are ready to reflect the God of Mercy in our lives. “ Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” ( Mathew 5:7).
2. At the parish and national level : “ How greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and communities may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!” ( Lenten Message 2015). While so much evil, bloodshed and hatred is brought by handful of evil people in the world today, thegood people need to bring a culture of Mercy into the world.
The culture of indifference was nurtured for the six decades in Myanmar. How many of our people have become victims to this indifference? In a country of huge wealth, millions are poor, millions displaced, millions are outside the country. Justice the sister of Mercy was mutilated. Now Myanmar stands at the threshold of hope. We seek Mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation even with the most evil men who perpetrated these crimes. Like Jesus who welcomed the women caught in adultery and tax collector Zacchaeus we too need to contribute towards national reconciliation. We need to encounter our country men and women : the poor, the monks, the military and those who rule us.
Some suggestions for Works of Mercy in Myanmar
- Identify and encounter victims of man-made disasters – war, poverty and oppression, visit and bring the message of mercy to refugees, poor and those who are in prison. Open the doors of Christ Mercy through regular service to them.
- Identify victims of indifference : old people, physically challenged people, people without any support, people with sicknesses and lonely people and extend active service of mercy
- Identify victims of man’s cruelty against man and women : people living in war areas, IDP camps, drug affected dioceses, human trafficking, mining areas and
- Identify victims of Spiritual Indifference : Those who do not access sacrament of confession, those relapsed Catholics, hospitals where patients wait for spiritual nourishment, areas that are not covered by evangelization, the evangelized becoming evangelizers.
3. Mercy to the wounded Planet :The Encyclical Laudato Si amplified the deep wounds caused to nature through greed. The poor await environmental justice. Myanmar is losing its great biodiversity to cronies and their masters. This land belongs to all. We join hands with all our brothers and sisters in protecting nature, showing mercy through exposing the greed that destroys the wealth that belongs to all. Church will spread the environmental awareness and activism among its members to show mercy to the mutilated earth.
Jubilee doors will be opened in Rome on 8th December. Other important churches will open their doors to signify that Church is a welcoming church, not condemning church. Christ is the door that leads to the father. Christ is waiting at the door every day at the door of our heart to bring Mercy to us : “ Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if any one hear my voice and open the door I will come into their house and eat with them, and they will eat with me” ( Revelation 3:20). Welcoming Jesus through acts of mercy is the door to the world.
Grace is a gift by God given even when we do not deserve it ; Mercy is the forgiveness given when we deserve to be punished for our transgressions. Christ has given the great commandment : Love one self, love others. As Myanmar after election is looking towards a new nation of justice, peace and human development, we Christians will renew our spiritual life through mercy and contribute towards building the nation by becoming messengers of peace to this nation that suffered for so many decades.
+ Charles Maung Bo., DD, SDB
Cardinal Archbishop of Yangon.