The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Arlington, delivered the following homily for the 2017 “Blue Mass” at the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More in Arlington on September 16, 2017:
“Wrath and anger are hateful things and sinners cling to them.” These words from the Book of Sirach in tonight’s First Reading are followed by the necessary remedy: forgive your neighbor’s injustice. Note it does not say to condone, accept or ignore the injustice, but rather to forgive your neighbor. This is also the lesson of the parable Jesus told in the Gospel: Our Lord and Master forgives us without end. Thus, we must do the same for one another.
Just recently, as I celebrated Mass for the students at one of our high schools, I told them each new academic year is a new beginning. They can leave behind the mistakes they may have made the previous year and begin anew with a clear focus on the potential that is theirs.
That is exactly what God does for us: Whenever we fail and sin, God offers us a new beginning. All we have to do is to approach the Lord, especially in the Sacrament of Penance, and express our contrition and promise to amend our life. The Lord forgives us completely and totally, for no sin is greater than his infinite love and divine mercy.
We who are recipients of mercy must also be instruments of mercy: we are to forgive one another in imitation of Christ.
It is not always easy to do so especially when we have been hurt or betrayed. Yet, it is always possible with the grace of God. If you are struggling in letting go of anger, wrath or bitterness, remember how many times the Lord has forgiven you and ask Him for the grace to see others through His eyes, to know their heart and to forgive as we have been forgiven. Give others that opportunity to begin anew with a firm belief in the power of God to transform hearts and to change lives.
Tonight, we honor and thank our police officers, firefighters and all members of the first responders community. Daily they, like all of us, see the consequences when people cling to anger and wrath and refuse to forgive one another. It leads to a lack of reverence for human life and the dignity of each and every person; it leads to violence, including domestic violence, and to harsh divisions. Regrettably, we see such consequences throughout our country, counties and communities.
Fortunately, our police officers, firefighters and members of the first responder community offer dedicated and selfless service for the protection of our citizens, compassionate care of those injured, and hope to a people who can easily begin to think that no one cares. For this, we offer profound thanks.