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Bishop Burbidge celebrates Mass honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

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The Mass on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord opened with the classic spiritual “Wade in the Water” sung by the St. Joseph Gospel Choir. It was a fitting start to the Mass in Recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington Jan. 12, said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge.

“What I love about the music we are singing today — gospel music and spirituals — they have such a powerful way of acknowledging injustice and oppression, but at the same time delivering a message of hope and freedom,” Bishop Burbidge said in his homily. “We yearn for the end of all oppression and the gift of true freedom for all of God’s people. That's why we follow Jesus  — we follow him to the waters of baptism where we die to ourselves and rise with him.”

Sadly, the world is filled with darkness because so many reject Jesus and his message, said Bishop Burbidge, including his message of love for all peoples. “We cannot shy away from acknowledging how the evils of racial discrimination and bigotry and hatred and prejudice continue to infect our society,” he said. “But as we acknowledge such evil, we always do so with hope. Because what we celebrate at this and every Mass is that by his own death and resurrection, Jesus accomplished once and for all victory over sin and suffering and even death.”

Many black Catholics played a role in the liturgy, including Deacons Al Anderson and Gerard Marie Anthony, reader Beverly Carroll and members of the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary Court of St. Joseph Church in Alexandria, who brought up the offertory gifts.

Grand Lady Beverly Thornton leads the sororal organization, which performs acts of service for the parish and community, such as volunteering with Meals on Wheels and assisting at parish funerals. They also work closely with the Oblate Sisters of Providence, a religious order in Baltimore founded by Mother Mary Lange. The order originally staffed the now-closed parish school. “This Christmas we each adopted a nun,” said Thornton. “There are about 50-some nuns and 51 of us, so we asked for their wish list and we were able to fulfil that.”

Both Thornton and Grand Knight Joseph Brooks were pleased by the turnout and diversity of attendees at the annual Mass. “It’s a good Mass to have to bring people together, which is what Dr. King really wanted,” said Brooks.

“We’re living his dream,” said Thornton. “Working on his dream.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020