Untitled Document
Untitled Document
Myanmar Catholic Church
Untitled Document

As the Covid dances across lives,

let compassion become our Common Religion

Sermon - 26th Sunday


Cardinal Charles Maung Bo., SDB, Yangon.

First Reading                                             Ezekiel 18:25-28

2nd Reading                                             Philippians 2:1-11 Or Philippians 2:1-5

Gospel                                                       Matthew 21:28-32



Like Jesus Christ, forced to flee. Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating
internally displaced persons
  - Pope Francis


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Blessings in the powerful   Name of Jesus.  Let his mighty hand stay with every one of you, console you, comfort you and heal you.    More than ever we need one another, trust one another, lean on one another, we need the Lord. The World needs the healing hand of the eternal healer.   

History has shown we shall overcome, normalcy will return.   We are meeting again online. Our hearts are united, we are united in faith. We are united in the Mystical body of Christ.

Once again we meet  amidst another Lockdown, stay home.  These are dark times, when evil seems to be on a winning spree.   For six long months, the Lord protected our simple nation from the ravages of the merciless contagion.  But the last one month the Covid Virus  seems to be dancing its sadistic dance in the streets of major cities. We pray for all the areas where this virus has penetrated. 

We pray for  every person who in  pain, who is affected,  who is overcome with panic.  To the thousands who are sick,  our heart goes to them, our hands are raised with bent knees imploring  quick recovery. For millions who lost their livelihood, we pray to the Lord who gave manna in the desert and multiplied five loaves and fed five thousand people  “Lord  Feed our people.  Heal our People.  Wash them clean with your Blood”  Myanmar church is already planning its response.  We shall stand by our brothers and sisters through prayer and by our generosity.  

These are times of prayer.  These are times of compassion.  During the Nargis cyclone, we wrote, when Myanmar was attacked by natural disasters, compassion became the common religion.  We all become brothers and sisters.  We were strengthened by unity.  A massive disaster went away.

 Today when the virus has declared a war against humanity, let us move to compassion as our common religion.   We shall overcome as one people, one nation. It is time to stop all conflicts. Let the brotherhood of humanity assert itself.  

God who took pity on the suffering Israelites and called Moses to redeem them, today he looks at our country and says “ I hear the cry of the suffering people.” Bible records ten pandemics. In each  God showed himself to be “ full of compassion, moved by mercy.: to his people.  We pray the Lord of Creation shows the same compassion to all of us.    Jesus who took pity on the starving people today calls to every one of us “Be compassionate as your heavenly father is compassionate.”

This Sunday,  the Pope  calls  us to remember the Migrants and refugees.  More than 40 million people were thrown out of their homes because of the permanent pandemic of hatred and poverty.   Let us pray with the Pope   “ Like Jesus,  thousands are displaced, let us welcome, protect and promote and integrate thousands who live inside our borders as IDPs.”   To all the people living in the IDP camps in our country, we join our Holy Father and pray for peace and dignified return home.  Jesus was an IDP, a refugee and a migrant.  He lived like thousands of our Myanmar Youth.  He understands our tears.   Let us welcome every stranger as we would welcome Jesus.

Today’s readings affirm a God who is loving, forgiving, seeking those who are least and the lost.   Many fundamentalist preachers have proclaimed this Covid as  the punishment from God.   Today’s first reading says God preserves the life of the right and just.   God is like the   father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, waiting for our return.      God is love.  God is not revenge.  Covid is not the time of God’s revenge, it is not punishment.  It is a time of love. It is a time of bringing God one another in virus attack.

The second reading gives us a clue to this scourge of virus.  Humility and unity in the face of common enemy.    As the virus broke off in the world scene,  the countries headed by autocrats and head strong leaders full of inflated ego, let their people to die in thousands.  Some of the most affected countries are headed by men, whose lack of empathy and compassion  made millions to be infected and thousands to die.  As St Paul writes  in the Second reading to Philippians, these leaders did everything “ out of selfishness and vainglory, looking out for their own glory.”     

Those who saved their people are  humble leaders, mostly women leaders. Because  in the words of St Paul, “ They humbly regard others as more important than themselves.”  The  self-emptying humility of these leaders saved lives. Covid  started where  there was an arrogant leadership and flourished in  countries where arrogant  leaders had their selfish agenda. Simple and humble  leaders like  New Zealand Prime Minister, Miss Jacinda Ardern give a leadership that  defeats even the pandemic.    The self emptying of thousands of front line workers saved millions.    

They embodied the ‘self emptying’ the kenosis of Christ  praised by St Paul  with those immortal words: “though he was in the form of God, did not regard  equality with God, something to be grasped.  Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of the slave.”

This is a great  lesson during the Covid Time.  The egoism of the world leaders is killing thousands.  Egoism in our relationship will kill us and others.  By protecting ourselves we protect others.

The  same lesson comes to the Pharisees and the Sadducees  in the gospel today.  Assuming that they are the rightful heirs to God’s Kingdom, they forgot mercy and compassion.  With inflated ego, they could load the innocent with the laws and rules. Their lack of humility is castigated by Jesus   with the searing words:  the prostitutes and the tax collectors will enter the Kingdome of God before any one of you.   Jesus was candid all through: the first will be last, the last will be the first.   Mary will affirm this in the Magnificat:  

He has shown might with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.


The virus threat taught us how life is so fragile.  A month ago, our nation saw only 8 deaths now the death rate is around 100.   Hundreds of our innocent people who went about their work a month ago are now sick.    The fragility and the passing nature of our life teaches us only one commandment: Life is so precious,  let us not waste in hatred of one another, let us one  Love one another as Jesus loved us.

This love commandment is the antidote we are seeking amidst these dark times of panic of pandemic.   That is the vaccine we are looking for the suffocating darkness of infection.  We need to be healed by love.   The message of God is Love. The word love appears more than  500 times in the Bible, more  times that  ‘death’ or ‘hell’ implying we are called upon to live in love.   It is not important how many years we lived, but it is very important to know how many people we really loved in this short life.

The Pharisees in today’s Gospel had enormous spiritual powers.  They used that power to subjugate people. Covid also throws great questions about power.   Power is not to dominate, power is to service. The real power, Pope Francis says, is in the service.  Covid  pandemic is  teaching us to give up the  power of arrogance  but to go to the power of love, the power of empty hands  with hearts full of empathy.    Nobody knows the  purpose of this pandemic – except that it has shaken the humanity.  Every  pandemic does not leave  teaching painful lessons.   

Some  lessons  the  Pharisees  and lawyers failed  to learn  the lessons of Jesus.   But the humble and the simple people of  Israel, the prostitutes and the tax collectors learnt.    This contagion is teaching us : Be humble, we all belong to the  same God.   

We draw more  lessons from the parable Jesus says :   About two sons. The first  son refuses his father’s call to go and  work in the field. Then he voluntarily goes by himself and works in the vineyard.    The second son, when asked the same request by the Father, he readily agrees but later  does not go.   The first one obeyed in deed and the second one obeyed only in words. 

The Gospel parable is directed at the hypocrisy of the religious and civil leaders of the Jewish society of Jesus day.   The Pharisees  were guardians of law but not the love of God.  They wanted God be served by the strict observance of the Law.  But it is clear they did not have the spirit  that Jesus was preaching through his life and teaching, namely Love, Love and Love.  Show compassion, caring and forgiveness for the weak and vulnerable.  Pharisees are like the second son : hear the word but made no effort to carry it out.  Since Jesus was preaching  a forgiving love, they rejected him.   

COVID  exposed such  religious and civil leaders.  Even today some  leaders who talked about national security failed to give human security when the virus attacked them.  Fundamental preachers who preached about God’s punishment with fire and brimstones are not found in the quarantine centres or hospitals.   The prosperity  gospel crowd is the second Son, listening and even preaching the Word but forget to show it in action.       

On the other hand, Jesus tells them that the tax collectors and the prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before they do. These certainly were not keeping God’s Law. They even had said no  to his commandments many times. But then they encountered Jesus and they experienced a radical transformation in their lives. They listened to him and they responded. 

The sinners, the outcasts of both Jewish and Gentile society, are like the first son. They do not obey God’s commands, they commit many sins, but later they accept the teaching of Jesus and become his followers.  The first will be last in the Kingdom – the Pharisees are; the last will be the first – the humble people of Israel.

Christians encounter the same risk.  Our outward observance of faith may not be enough.  Jesus warns us as he warned the Pharisees:  "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Mt 7:21). St James calls for “Faith with action’.  

COVID challenged the liturgical observance.  But it has opened the  door for faith in action.  We have seen the cases exploding at a fearsome rate.  Panic and fear grips every person. How can a Christian reach out?  Like the first son or the second son of the Gospel of today? 

 Despite our great challenges during this time, how we can still reach out to our pandemic affected brothers and sisters – that is the real test to our faith the Covid has thrown to us.   Hundreds of volunteers, health workers are at the frontlines.   exposing themselves to great risk to save others.   These may find God’s blessings rather than people who spent hours together in depression about why God  had brought  pandemic on human family.  This is the time not to ask “why”  like the Pharisees did   but to move towards ‘what and how’ we can do reach out those in lockdown areas  with whatever help we can render.  Let us become the first sons despite our mind constantly telling us to be cautious and say no, let our heart reach out to our people.

Those of us who cannot offer anything, let us offer our prayers.  In times of crisis you do not benefit less, but more from prayer. Grant it to yourself to indulge in His love. It is the best antidote to fear.   St Augustine wrote : ” Love ought to manifest itself more by deeds than by words.”

            Let us become worthy of the Kingdome by looking  after one another in whatever way we safely can, especially remembering the poor and the vulnerable.  We will overcome. Everything will pass away.   Because the living, loving and liberating God is in charge.  He is not the Lord of Death, He is the Lord of Life.   Emmanuel, Live in us

2020-09-23 20:27:46