In his catechesis Charles Maung Bo, the first ever Cardinal of Myanmar spoke about the virtue of patience. A patient person is able to endure much pain and suffering without the slightest complaint. This person gets angry slowly only, and is waiting for God to comfort and punish the sin.
Charles Maung Bo, the first ever Cardinal of Myanmar, President of the Federation of the Asian Bishops’ Conferences served as the Papal Legate at the previous International Eucharistic Congress, held in Cebu (Philippines). As for the fallout of that World Event he reminded us that the Philippines remained one of the countries with the largest number of Catholic communities, with a very active faith life. In his introductory the Cardinal he paid tribute with admiration to the past and the testimony of the Hungarian Catholic Church when it had to face the suffering and the repression.
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo introduced the Church of Myanmar and the country itself that faced extreme challenges over the past 70 years, in particular during the recent months. Armed conflicts, pandemic, economic chaos and environmental disasters burdened the life of people in Myanmar. The Buddhist majority Southeast Asian country has a population of 55 million that is divided into 135 diverse ethnic groups. Their young Christian community is steadily increasing despite the difficulties they have to face. Recent period was even more troublesome, the Christians of the country were targets of several violent attacks, their churches were destroyed, and the people were expelled from their homes. The Cardinal outlined that Pope Francis had special fondness for the Burmese Christians, and in 2017, as the prophet of the periphery, he paid a visit to the 70 thousand Burmese Catholics living in the peripheries. In the wake of the political riots of recent months, the Pope raised his voice seven times and celebrated Mass for Myanmar, and for the Burmese Church that has been challenged in its patience.
In his catechesis, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo raised the example of Mary, the Undoer of Knots, whose veneration was promoted world-wide by Pope Francis while he was studying in Germany as a student. A famous painting depicts the scene as Mary is undoing the knots that were handed over to her by an Angel. As to the theologian’s explanation the roots of the story goes back to the disobedience of the first woman, Eve, who had listened to the advice of the evil. These knots were undone by the obedience of Virgin Mary, and redemption arrives through Mary’s patience. Cardinal Bo mentioned that we all have our own knots, out of which many – amongst others- are knotted by ourselves, driving us into a trap. Pope Francis said: “All the knots of our heart and conscience can be unknotted by Mary. Nothing is impossible for God’s mercy! Even the most complicated knots are to be undone by his grace.”
What patience is? It is a gift from the Holy Spirit, the grace that is not the ability of waiting, but of the good behaviour, while we are waiting – voiced the Cardinal. Mother Teresa gave us a lesson on patience. Her ministry was permeated with patience, she was doing her job over decades, despite the recognition that the change – if it ever occurs – is a slow ongoing process in case of the poor and oppressed. We need patience to understand God’s acts within us – cited the Cardinal Mother Teresa’s words. Life is not a fast food restaurant. Rather it is a patient pilgrimage.
Cardinal Bo shed light that the current pandemic has made people familiar with patience, even those ones who have never thought of it previously. Our relationships have been wounded by the Covid, the lockdown, we were forced to hide our smiles. Anxiety and famine have stepped into our lives. Far-reaching challenges have appeared for the faithful, since on account of the closed churches they were unable to celebrate the Eucharist. However, the pandemic had its lessons to be learned, just to mention the spiritual benefit of the home prayer, in which “instead of breaking the bread on the Altar of the church, we break the bread of healing, the bread of the community, the bread of consolation, the bread of mutual support and the bread of the Word. ”There has been a deeper awareness of God’s presence in the family prayers, in line with Jesus’ words: Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”
Cardinal Bo cited Pope Francis’ thoughts, according to which the pandemic presented us with a choice, either we continue the life in the culture of selfishness and waste, or we embark on new paths.
As to our faith – continued Cardinal Bo – patience is one of the virtues of the Christian tradition. This faith teaches us simple things. “To love each other. To be patient, alike to the patience of our Heavenly Father.” In the translation of the New Testament two Greek words have been translated into the meaning of “patience”. ‘Hupomonē’ means “stay below”, referring to perseverance and bearing the burdens. The word ‘makrothumia’ written in the 22nd verse of the 5th chapter of the Letter to the Galatians is translated as “lengthy anger”, and is used for the person with the ability to retain his anger for a long time. Patient people are able to endure much pain and suffering without the slightest complaint, while they are getting angry slowly only, and are waiting for God to comfort and punish the sin.
The Carinal also talked about God’s limitless patience towards us. Following the first human couple’s fall into sin, a divine covenant of grace was offered to them. We can experience his patience towards Noah and his Ark, as they are waiting for the flood to recede, or in the Gospels, when Jesus, the Son of God is rejected and abandoned. The Cardinal added: “We can see the Lord’s great patience towards the Church, He does not let us, not even when we fail.”
The lecturer outlined from the Biblical examples the ones, who had been assigned by God with a huge mission that needed lots of patience. Abraham, who had received the gift of paternity as his old age, and had to sacrifice his son. Moses begged God when God punished him, and he took it patiently. There was also the case of Job, who was unwilling to curse God, not even when he lost his family, his property and his health. The Cardinal of Myanmar has highlighted that patience is the vigour, and it is there in the endless movement of the universe. It is there in our birth, as we go from embryo to adulthood. In the example of the farmer who waits for the seeds sown to bear fruits. The patient is waiting for the seed sown in the ground to bring the life-giving grains. These grains are waiting to become bread, and to become the Eucharistic bread that proclaims eternal life.