Home Commentary The shepherd and the road to peace

The shepherd and the road to peace

Our Gathering today is a gathering of joy, gratitude, and a gathering of healing. This is a most significant day not only for you but a holy day in many ways. Twenty-fifth is great for all Christians, as we celebrate the incarnation of the Lord Jesus as a humble human being on December 25.

August 25 is a grace-filled day for the people of Pathein. I served here for seven years. My successor, Bishop John Mahn Hsane Hgyi and our dear Bishop-Elect: Msgr Henry Eiklein by a blessed co incidentally share the same date – August 25th is the date we three were and will be consecrated Bishops.

What a blessed coincidence. Bishop John Hsane Hgyi will be smiling today in heaven at our spiritual blessings. 

Let this blessed date bring all the blessings to this diocese. I only have fond memories of being bishop here for seven years, savoring the fellowship of my dear priests who were my companions and many of them my guides when as a young Bishop I took the great responsibility to be the servant of all servants.  

Pathein always has a very special place in my heart for the pure and intense love of the simple Karen and other people of this diocese.

Not only the date is blessed. In the person of Msgr. Henry Eiklein, the Lord has blessed you my dear people with a shepherd who comes with great talents and long experience.

He is a multi-faceted personality that could be an envy of many others: Rarely do three major gifts merge beautifully as they have done in the life of Henry Eiklein.  

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He has demonstrated a surprising range of talents: he was for a considerable time a monk in a very traditional monastery in France, an erudite scholar, whose knowledge elevated the Major Seminary standard. 

As an organic intellectual, he rose to the great challenge of leading the Major Seminary during the most challenging times of Myanmar’s history. By celebrating the Golden Jubilee in 2008 he put the Myanmar church on the Map of the World church.  

As the violent Nargis attacked the delta especially the whole diocese of Pathein, his service was instrumental in the rehabilitation of the people.   

From the portals of the seminary, he moved seamlessly as a Social Work director of the diocese, building up Social work on solid foundations.  

When you moved to socio-pastoral planning, his golden touch brought faith formations to thousands.  

When man-made disasters and natural disasters inflicted visceral wounds, he was called to the national church where he served ably as the Director of the CBCM MChan operations, reaching out to thousands during the COVID time and later.  

His five senses are the five loaves that multiplied a thousand times and shared with the people of this diocese. 

Thus a versatile personality is given as a gift and grace to this diocese. You are fortunate enough to get such a great man as your shepherd. 

As the Psalmist extolled joyfully here is the shepherd who will lead the diocese to the ‘greener pastures’ of peace and prosperity. Let the healing, development, and prosperity start today. This is a blessed moment for all of us. 

Yet, as a Brother, I wish to start with caution. Physician heals thyself is the famous quote. If you want to heal and shepherd this diocese, be a good shepherd to yourself first. 

Self-care and robust health are very much needed by the bishops of Myanmar since they are the shepherd who needs to heal and bless their people.  

I remember with gratitude – and pain – the great Bishops of Pathein. Most of them died young, burning themselves in service without care for their well-being. 

I remember them with gratitude.

  1. Bishop George U Kyaw passed away at the age of a little after 50 due to food poisoning.
  2. Bishop Joseph Mahn Erie retired before 70 due to health problems.
  3. Bishop Sequera too died of health problems soon after taking charge.
  4. Bishop John Gabriel died after two years of installation age just after 50 years
  5. The great smiling Bishop John Mahn Hsane Hgyi died of Covid.

Many priests and religious catechists also perished during the Pandemic. As people who serve our simple people, we must be healthy. 

I am sure the Bishop-Elect is a good self-care pastor. The commandment of the Lord Jesus is candid: Love others as you love yourself. If you cannot love and care for yourself, you cannot be the shepherd to the people.

My dear people can ask us: What is the task of the Bishop? Especially Bishop in today’s context?  

Pathein faithful have a right to know the answers. Recently we have seen four dioceses having new bishops.  These are the most challenging times and dioceses. I plead with the people to please pray and strengthen your shepherds with prayers. Start praying today.  

As a Bishop, he belongs to the apostolic traditions reaching Peter and Paul. A Bishop is an Apostle, one who proclaims Christ’s liberating word. 

The word of God is the Balm of healing needed today in this country. With his theological and contemplative training, the Bishop delegate has many great gifts.

But the greatest gift he can ask for is to proclaim his Word. We remember the late Bishop John was a great preacher, a preacher who broke the word with so much joy. 

A bishop, like the apostles, is a miracle maker. Yes. The Bishop can become a miracle maker, bringing peace and prosperity to the people of Pathein.

In the first reading, we read about The first Christians, following the example of the apostles, who were also great miracle workers. What miracle did they perform?   

The greatest miracle of the first Christians was Compassion. In a Roman Empire where the might was right and the powerful had everything, the Christians brought the miracle of compassion. 

They cared for one another. They become a loving community. “Be compassionate as your heavenly father is compassionate” said Jesus to his disciples.  

The first Christians performed the great miracle of compassion, especially for those vulnerable. That is the first task of the Shepherd.   

Pope Francis, as the Good Shepherd made Compassion and Mercy two eyes of ministry.  Pathein people have seen so much suffering, so much conflict, so much displacement, so much poverty, so much migration.  

Yes, following the guidance of the first Christians, let compassion become the miracle of healing, and let your eyes and hands and words, dear Bishop Designate, perform that miracle. 

The second reading from the first letter of Peter guides every new and old Bishop: Lead by Example. Yes. The world is tired of empty words. 

It urgently needs good examples. Peter urges the shepherds to lead Not by power but by service;  not through empty words but by example. 

Let us remember Mother Teresa never preached a sermon from the pulpit but her life was the greatest proclamation of God’s love to the World. 

As a Bishop, we are called upon to proclaim the word and make that word become flesh through our good words. The great advice of Francis of Assisi comes to mind: Always proclaim the Good News, use words only if needed. 

A good example is the greatest gift a Bishop can give to his people. Pope Francis constantly tells his bishops: Know the Bible, Live the Bible to Proclaim the Bible. 

What does it mean to be the Disciple of Jesus? That too as the Bishop? That is what the Gospel today answers. 

To be a disciple of Jesus is to work for peace;  peace that is based on Justice. Yes. The Bishop is called upon to work for peace, based on Justice.

In the recent consecration of a Bishop the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, gave this message to the new Bishop: The bishop must be “a tireless peacemaker in this world troubled by wars and cruel conflicts”. We live in times of great challenge. 

Peace is the only way. The shepherd leads his flock on the road to peace, paved with justice. Pathein has lived long in man-made and natural disasters. Peace is the only way. 

The Gospel is also a  powerful encounter between a wounded Jesus and Thomas. Thomas doubted the wounds of  Jesus.  

Jesus with the wounds appeared to him. The temptation today is to deny the wounds of our people. The Gospel calls us, the Bishops and priests, to look at the world through the eyes of a wounded Jesus.  

The best definition of a Bishop in Myanmar is summed up in three words: The wounded Healer. Jesus appears with our people’s visceral wounds.

The Bishop of Myanmar is called to touch and heal our people’s wounds inflicted by multidimensional crises.  Our Bishop designate has worked tirelessly in the healing ministry.  He will heal. 

Apart from the Proclamation and healing the Bishop is called upon to build a community of faithful through Worship, Liturgy, and administration of sacraments. Breaking the Bread follows the breaking the Word.   

 What kind of Bread does our Pathein faithful wait for?   

Sure the Bishop is called upon to break the bread on the altar as the high priest of the Diocese. He has worked hard to strengthen their faith.

But there are other bread the Pathein faithful need urgently. Like Jesus who went about three years of his ministry breaking the bread of healing, consolation, and compassion, the Bishop is also called upon to break many types of bread :  

  • The Bread of Basic Needs: Our people need real bread that quenches their hunger.  Jesus when he saw the starving multitude his heart melted in compassion.  “Give them something to eat,” Jesus asked the disciples.  Compassionate charity needs to continue especially for the poor and the old. 
  • The bread of hope: Pathein diocese is blessed with a huge percentage of youth.  Holy Father is deeply concerned about the youth all over the world. With urgency, we need to join the Pope and say the same words he said to the youth: “I say to each one of you, “Put on faith”, and your life will take on a new flavor, it will have a compass to show you the way; “put on hope”. When the youth lose hope we lose the next generation. The Pathein Diocese needs to break the bread of quality education and livelihood options. We remember with gratitude Fr Bruno Phillip, a holy priest who brought hope to hundreds. Let that tradition continue in every parish through educational and livelihood options for the youth. 
  • The bread of human security: Pathein diocese is one of the most vulnerable to human trafficking of youth. I commend the efforts of the Pathein diocese taken already by the late bishop to ensure safe migration. Like Jesus who fled to Egypt, our youth are forced to flee to nearby countries. We need to accompany our youth, not allow an exodus. I am sure with the collaboration of the sister churches in the region, our youth, both Christians and non-Christians are ensured dignity. 

I wish to end this prayerful words that God may strengthen you Bishop-elect in five major areas. Like five fingers, let them help you to reach out to your new calling with vigor and compassion.

These five major areas for which we pray are started with G: 

  1. Gratitude: Gratitude is the noblest human and spiritual quality.  Relationships are cemented by gratitude.  Let us be grateful for every small gift. St. Paul indicates that virtue when he says Give thanks to the Lord, Always. ( Col 1:3). Pope Francis indicated three great gratitudes: To God; to one another and to the gift of nature. A culture of gratitude goes a long way in building up the diocese and the faith community.
  2. Generosity: The Gospel says “The measure you give is the measure you get ( Luke 6:38).   So many things are in short supply. Humanity and love need not be in short supply. Peter the First Pope started with ‘neither silver nor gold’ but the Acts says they shared generously with one another.   
  3. Grace-filled life: Grace is all that St. Paul prayed for all through his great mission. He was called the Apostle of Grace. Every bishop shepherding his people needs Grace. Grace is the gift of God. A grace-filled diocese will have everything. We need the grace-filled encounter of Jesus as St. Paul had on the way. May the Diocese of Pathein be filled with abundant Grace. 
  4. God-centered ministry: God is the center of the church. Missio Dei. The work we do is the work of God to redeem this world from the powers of Evil. Forgetting God in our mission leads us to idolatry. An idol is not only an image or a shape; anything more important than God, or anything more loved than God, is an idol. It could be a pleasure, convenience, comfort zone, self-glory, self-centeredness, love of money, position, honor, etc. A church and diocese must turn to God from these idols heeding the words of the great apostle.  Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. (1 John 5/21)” 
  5. Gospel-based church: The word of God is the Light to my feet. (Ps 119: 105) Some years ago  Pope Benedict introduced the New Evangelization as the major mission to the whole church. He asked us to make everyone the evangelizer, a church that is based on Gospel truths. 

The mandate like five fingers is clear. The same fingers that raise the staff to guide the sheep, the same fingers that hold the sacred bread on the altar will be anointed today to guide the church in Pathein. 

We pray for our dear Bishop Designate that his journey may be a journey of blessings and his consecration may drive out all the darkness from our society and we may see showers of blessings be upon the new bishop and the people of Pathein. 

Homily of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon during the consecration of Bishop Henry Eiklein of Pathein in Myanmar on August 25.

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