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A mark of penance and holy joy on Ash Wednesday

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Blessed ashes in the form of crosses adorned the heads of more than 150 people during Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington Feb. 14. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge was the principal celebrant and homilist at the Mass and was assisted by Father Robert J. Rippy, Father Paul F. deLadurantaye and Deacon Marques R. Silva.

How blessed we are in this sacred season that we have three time tested disciplines that help us in this process of conversion. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving." Bishop Michael F. Burbidge

During the homily, Bishop Burbidge described how in the midst of some unsettling times St. Teresa of Kolkata was once asked “What needs to change?” Her response was, “You and I.”

Bishop Burbidge described the call to conversion as a radical transformation on all levels of living.

“How blessed we are in this sacred season that we have three time-tested disciplines that help us in this process of conversion,” he said. “Prayer, fasting and almsgiving.”

To help with prayer, he invited the faithful to meditate on psalms 18, 31 and 51 this Lent.

“No matter how much we want to change, we can never do it alone,” he said. “We are completely reliant on God.”

Bishop Burbidge mentioned that oftentimes people think they can substitute fasting with more good works during Lent, but he discouraged this.

“It’s both. Fasting reminds us that nothing in this world can ever satisfy our hunger or quench our thirst. Only in Christ do we find the joy and serenity for which we are longing.”

Almsgiving is the final discipline to remember during Lent.

Bishop Burbidge encouraged the congregation to use their gifts to serve one another, but warned them about getting overwhelmed by trying to solve the big things such as world hunger.

“If it comes from your heart, God will use it in miraculous ways,” said Bishop Burbidge.

St. James parishioners Nathan and Jill Verschaetse were one of the families in attendance. It was their first Ash Wednesday Mass with their infant son, Thomas.

“We wanted it to be a special time for our family to enter into this season of penance together to receive those graces,” said Nathan. “This year we really feel called to go deeper in our marriage. We have given up sarcasm in our conversations together in an effort to try and build more sincerity.”

They also have chosen personal penances to focus on during Lent. Nathan is giving up Netflix while Jill is giving up certain treats she usually enjoys.

“The thing that struck me this morning in prayer is the idea of having a holy joy and seeing it as a time to grow in intimacy with the Lord, allowing Him to show us His love,” said Jill.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018