Homily of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon for the World Day of the Sick at the National Shrine of Our Lady Nyaunglebin.
We gather today at the holy shrine of Our Lady. This national shrine used to attract thousands during the normal times, bringing people from every corner of Myanmar, from every culture and from every religion. Indeed, she united us as a nation, as a people, as sons and daughters in this holy ground.
Today once again we come to her for protection. As a nation and as a people, we face challenges, face tears, face the pandemic, face displacement and face human brokenness. Here we came in hope, seeking mercy, seeking healing.
We know her as our Mother. Mother of our Savior. Today we gather here, firmly hoping that our mother becomes our healer. She knows our pain. She who stood at the foot of the Cross and grieved with her wounded son, knows our wounds and as the mother of sorrows knows our pain, and pray that as she held her wounded son under the Cross, that she may place this nation in her arms and heal all of us. Let her Mercy that brought the savior to the world, bring once again peace in this land.
Mary was a faithful mother to his son: from the day of annunciation, during his mission and his Way of the Cross, she was most faithful. Her faithfulness was unwavering under the cross, when she stood with her wounded son, though all the others fled from Mount Calvary. As a mother she was with her son at the most needed time. Not abandoning us, she stands with the people of Myanmar today. She is mother most faithful and most merciful.
Every Year, we gathered here in joy, as a people of this great nation, forgetting all our differences, celebrating our common humanity. Our Lady becomes the mother of all people, of all races and all religions. The whole Myanmar came here for healing and celebrating.
But this year we have come here as a wounded nation, a wounded people.
Wounded by nature and manmade disasters. Like her son whose five wounds she witnessed on the cross, we have come with five wounds: five wounds that includes COVID, conflict, coup, collapse of economy, and crisis after crisis. We are sad that the pandemic and other excruciating social ills brought a united people and a proud nation to its knees. On our knees we have come to our mother imploring her for holistic health. We pray on our knees today with our mother. Pope Francis who prayed for this nation more than ten times, encouraged the Myanmar people, saying that he too knelt in the streets of Myanmar for healing this wounded nation. Let our prayers heal this nation.
It is fitting that we celebrate the day of healing at the feet of our mother. On February 11, the Church celebrates the World Day of the Sick. Pope Francis has released his statement for the World Day of the Sick, saying that the world has done great improvement in health care. But the pope says the world has a long way to go in ensuring that all the sick, also those living in places and situations of great poverty and marginalization, receive the health care they need, as well as the pastoral care that can help them experience their sickness in union with the crucified and risen Christ.
The theme chosen by the pope for this Thirtieth World Day of the Sick is “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). Mercy is God’s name par excellence: God cares for us with the strength of a father and the tenderness of a mother; (cf. Is 49:15). Jesus experienced the merciful motherhood of Mary. More than ever we need our Mother of Mercy in Myanmar today. Our pain is her pain.
Her son was born in an abandoned place, they fled violence. Jesus’ birth was followed by enormous violence, death and merciless killing. Like a true mother whose impulse is to know the infants needs and rushes to fulfil it, Our Lady knows our suffering, our brokenness, our fears and anxieties.
When the son Jesus was presented at the temple, Simeon warned her seven swords would pierce her heart. She became mother of sorrows. In the Vatican, there is a very moving statue of Pieta where Mother Mary is depicted in immeasurable sorrow holding her tortured and killed son on her laps under the cross. Michaelangelo’s masterpiece is a metaphor of mothers in our suffering nation.
Mother Mary feels our pain. Like us she had underwent all the sufferings and pain we undergo today. Yes, she knows the pain of thousands of our mothers who lost their sons and daughters to violence. She knows what it means to live under fear and anxiety, fearing for the life of her precious child. She knows what it means to be an internally displaced person since she was forced to relocate during the most challenging time of her son’s birth. She knows the shatteredness of being a refugee when she fled to Egypt. To our refugees and those who are hidden, Mother Mary says: I empathize with you.
So, we stand at her shrine, seeking protection. We see in the poignant picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succor where the little Jesus, rushing to her, was protected by her motherly care.
To this healer we have come today crying out: Mother Most Holy, heal me, heal my family, heal my nation. Yes. Our Lord went about healing the sick. The Bible says all who touched his garment were healed. Jesus listens to Mother Mary in her words to stewards in Cana: Do as he commands you. Yes. We are stewards of good health of one another. Let us do as Mary advised: be merciful.
Our Lady held Jesus in her sacred womb, as the power of healing. She is the mother of Mercy. She is such an effective healer because she is the mother of the Supreme Healer, the Wounded Healer. But his healing was not merely physical but also psychological and that is why he told the paralyzed man “Your sins are forgiven, take up your bed and walk.” This healing of Jesus tells us something about the nature of the healing Mother Mary effects in us. It is a holistic healing. We all need spiritual, psychological and physical healing. We need to heal all our broken relationships. We need to include all, even those we consider as enemies and evil, we need to include them in our mercy. The festering wound of hatred need to be healed in this country. Mercy is the message of Christ and Mother Mary.
The pope calls all Christians to be Christians Dedicated to Mercy — to touch the suffering Jesus. These are times of being close to the wounded and the sick. The pope extolled the great example of “next door” saints: the health workers who touch and heal every one during these times of COVID and conflict. They reflect the mercy of Jesus, the mercy of our Mother. Mary comes in the form of our health workers. The pope says that the world is indebted to them. They heal by their touching presence.
The glorious example of Mother Teresa comes to mind. She went about touching sick people, never using gloves, treating every sick person in the street as the wounded Jesus. There are hundreds of Mother Teresas in this country — reaching out to those in dangerous places, touching and healing people.
As we stand at the feet of our mother, imploring her to heal us, the pope calls for churches to become “houses of mercy.” Yes, let the churches become the field hospitals, as the pope urged in his writings, receive everyone, wounded and living in fear. Let us teach this nation to heal, not to wound, to throw away weapons of mutual destruction and arm itself with tools of healing. As of now our country looks like the Pieta scene: an inconsolable Mother Mary, holding her mutilated and killed son on her lap. But she stayed with faith, stayed with mercy and saw her son rising to life, defeating evil and defeating death. She lived with hope, she lived with mercy. She will heal us, heal this nation and we will resurrect into freedom and peace. For this, we are gathered here.
We shall never doubt our Mother’s merciful efficacy. She has appeared in many places, affirming her healing role: in Lourdes, in Velanganni. In all these places she revealed herself as the Our Lady of health. Thousands visit these shrines, go back healed with great miracle. Today we have come to our own shrine: Nyaunglebin. In marriage at Cana, she urged her son to change water to wine and bring joy and peace. Today we urge our Lady, heal all of us. Change our tears of sorrow into tears of joy. Make all of us to return to your shrine in the coming year. Mother Mary, we strongly believe you can work wonders through your intercession to your Merciful Son.
With great hope, let us recite the great Catholic prayer to our Lady of Mercy.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To you I come; before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.
Let our Lady touch you all, heal you from all the evils and bring holistic health. May each one of you go with the faith of being healed by the merciful mother. May our prayers heal this nation and cure the world of the pandemic so that we can come together next year as a family of Myanmar nation, reconciled, healed and restored to our normal life.
God bless you all.