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Bishop Burbidge's homily for the Chrism Mass

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Since my Installation Mass in December, I have been blessed to participate in some significant diocesan events and initiatives. One such event was the Life is Very Good Rally at which our youth, young adults and others from our diocese and beyond gathered to proclaim that human life is sacred and must be cherished and protected at every stage. Life is very good because of its Source, the Lord our God, who created us in His own image and likeness and whose very Spirit dwells within us. Dear friends, may we promise to express daily our gratitude for the precious gift of life and to echo the words of the psalmist: “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord” (Ps 89:2).

On a personal note, upon arriving as your new bishop, I have experienced the fraternal support of Bishop Loverde, my brother priests, and the welcome and prayers of the deacons, religious, seminarians and so many of the lay faithful across our diocese. Thus, I want you to know that as I awaken each morning in my relatively new surroundings, I am able to say with enthusiasm and conviction: that in the Diocese of Arlington, Life is very good!

Yet we know that life is not always protected in our nation. Thus, the theme for another recent diocesan gathering, the annual Men’s Conference, was appropriate: Girding for Battle. When we uncompromisingly witness to the Gospel of Life, we often engage in a certain kind of battle, as others often ridicule and reject our message. The theme, Girding for Battle, sounds a bit dark and grim. But the event was not! Those who gathered, just like all of us, believe that we have the armor we need in God’s Word, the Sacraments and prayer to be authentic witnesses to the Truth, who is Jesus Christ, the one who anoints us and calls us to bring glad tidings to the poor and to heal the brokenhearted (cf. Lk 4:18).

It is the same call that unites us as brothers and sisters in Christ and, thus, nothing should divide us. That is why the theme for the recent annual Women’s Conference served as such an important reminder: Breaking Free through Forgiveness. Today provides us with the wonderful opportunity, as instruments of the Lord’s healing love, to ask Him to remove from our hearts any bitterness or anger so that we may forgive one another. Only then are we truly free!        

Of course, there is another and ongoing diocesan initiative of which, fortunately, you are all familiar: the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal. I was inspired when I heard the theme chosen: Offering Hands to Serve and Hearts to Love. I am so grateful to all those involved in those ministries supported by the Appeal and to all in our diocese for the way you live that theme each and every day.

We are merely His hands, His instruments. It is Christ who sanctifies, enlightens and transforms us. And so, in just a few moments, the sacred chrism will be consecrated and the oils of the catechumens and the sick will be blessed. They will be carried home to our churches and communities for the celebration of the sacraments and as visible signs of God’s saving power in our midst. Rejoice in knowing the Spirit of the Lord is upon us!

And to you my brother priests, know of my deep gratitude for how that same theme is reflected in and through your priestly life and ministry. In just a few moments, the Church invites you to renew your Priestly Promises. In doing so, you express your commitment to imitate Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, and to serve sacrificially; to love unceasingly. But brothers, you can only do so to the extent that you are vigilant regarding the care of your own soul and salvation.

Recently, Father Ned Shlesinger, who gave our Lenten Priests Day of Prayer, asked us to pray for his mother, whom God eventually called home last week. In what would be his mother’s final hours, Father Ned asked his mom to pray for priests. She said in a weak voice: “I will, because I want them all to go to heaven.” Unless you are striving daily for that goal, you will be unable to help others along that path. Thus, perhaps the most important promise you make today and the best gift you give to those entrusted to your care is your commitment to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to Him.

Strengthened today with the gift of the Holy Eucharist and through the intercession of Mary our Mother, may our grateful hearts reflect our belief that Life is Very Good; may our reliance on the Lord’s strength gird us for battle as we faithfully witness to the Gospel; may our conviction that we are one in Christ help us to break free through forgiveness; and may our daily lives find us offering hands to serve and hearts to love as we praise and worship God our Father, to Him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017