BETHESDA, MD — His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, imploring the noon congregation of staffers and service members to “return to the Lord” during the holy season of Lent as Russian troops rampage through Ukraine, killing innocent civilians, inflicting mass destruction, and causing a humanitarian crisis while hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians seek refuge in other countries.
Drawing on the first of the three Mass readings, wherein the prophet Joel proclaims, “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart with fasting, and weeping, and mourning” (Jl 2:12), Archbishop Broglio said “The call for a return to the Lord is urgent, and we pray for the turning of all hearts to him as Christians battle Christians in a senseless war. The cry for peace and justice is urgent and we long to see it realized.”
Speaking frankly to the Walter Reed health care providers, His Excellency noted: “We see an attempt to occupy a free nation. We see death and destruction. The innocent suffer, and we wonder, ‘how long, oh Lord.’ In this place you are no stranger to the effects of combat. You know what the real cost is. You strive to restore men and women to that wholeness they knew before the experience of war. You repair limbs, heal wounds, and try to return men and women to some semblance of normal in their altered lives.”
Archbishop Broglio called on the faithful to take advantage of Lent—a 40-day period of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in anticipation of Easter—to engage in heartfelt “renewal” and a recommitment “to the service of our neighbors…. When we sow for the benefit of others, we share God’s own benevolent love…. In these days of Lent, we strive to perfect our response to a loving Lord, and we will engage in prayer and penance for peace in Ukraine and throughout the world. That must remain one of our intentions in this holy season…. Our personal sacrifices, penance, and self-denial are occasions to unite ourselves with the sufferings of the Cross of Christ, but also link us in a real way to everyone who suffers.”
Before sprinkling the blessed ashes as a sign of penitence on the heads of the faithful, Archbishop Broglio said, “We will be marked with the Cross of Christ, a sign of our identity, and also a link between our sufferings and His. We know that conversion is possible. How appropriate it is that we begin Lent here with the perfect prayer. We want to make time for prayer, to listen to the Word of God, and heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Fasting allows us to open spaces within ourselves and to create a longing for that fullness that only the Lord can offer. It so good to deny ourselves so as to be filled with Him.”
His Excellency advised the faithful not to be troubled. “Despite a new war,” he said, “and the vestiges of the (COVID-19) pandemic, we are always a people of hope, and we recommit ourselves to return to the Lord who calls us to perfection at the service of those who are lost.”
Watch video of Archbishop Broglio’s homily.