Commentary: Prayers for Peace and Unity in Alexandria

Commentary: Prayers for Peace and Unity in Alexandria

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrating the solemnity of Corpus Christi at Saint Mary Catholic Church in Alexandria on Sunday, June 18.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrating the solemnity of Corpus Christi at Saint Mary Catholic Church in Alexandria on Sunday, June 18. Photo Courtesy of Joe Cashwell

“Uphold truth, peace and justice … Let go of harsh words and severe rhetoric.” — Bishop Michael Burbidge

During Mass Sunday celebrating the solemnity of Corpus Christi at Saint Mary Catholic Church in Alexandria, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington offered prayers for peace and unity following last week’s shooting at a charity baseball practice. In his homily, Bishop made a plea to all, including elected officials and the media:

Allow me to begin by conveying our prayers and gratitude to our fathers as we honor them on this special day. At this Mass, we also remember our fathers who have died and pray for their eternal happiness.

The horrific event of this past Wednesday here in Alexandria was indeed a sad day for our nation and reminded us of the great unrest in our world. We pray for Rep. Scalise and the others injured as well as for their family members. We thank God for those who offer their service for our protection and for those who attend to our medical care in our time of need. And with faith, we entrust the person responsible for the tragic situation to God’s divine mercy.

As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we are ever aware of the Lord’s great love for us which is fully and perfectly revealed in the Holy Eucharist. How providential that after Mass we will carry Jesus, the Source of our unity and peace, in a Eucharistic procession on these streets in Alexandria that only recently witnessed severe violence.

I believe our Eucharistic Procession provides important lessons for our world, nation and all of us to embrace especially at this time. Here is what is at the heart of the procession: Jesus leads and we follow. Is this not the reality we have forgotten in so many ways? If we allow the Truth of His Gospel to lead and guide us, we will be on the right path. It demands that we spend our lives loving and serving God and one another. It mandates a reverence for the sacredness of all human life. It requires us to heed the teaching of Moses who reminded the Israelites in our First Reading that we cannot rely on our own resources and power. We must turn to the Lord our God to guide and sustain us, the One alone who satisfies our hunger and quenches our thirst.

Another powerful reminder that our Eucharistic Procession provides is that we do not walk through this life alone. We will walk together in faith, as brothers and sisters united in Christ Jesus. As Saint Paul said today, “We, though many, are one body for we all partake of the one loaf.” Therefore, nothing can separate or divide us. Our world and nation need such witness of unity from us who are followers of Christ and it must be reflected in our homes, workplaces, schools and communities. Such unity is made visible when we recognize and respect the dignity of each and every person; when we are willing to listen to others and discuss our points of disagreement in a civil manner; and when we let go of bitterness and forgive those who have offended us.

Today, with the faithful in the Diocese of Arlington and all people of good will, I respectfully make a plea to all our elected officials to reflect the unity for which we long. We need you to work together for the common good; to uphold truth, peace and justice; to find common ground; to be respectful of each other even in the midst of debate; and to let go of harsh words and severe rhetoric. We also hope and pray that all in the media will do the same. Imagine how different the world and our nation would be if our motto was the words of St. Paul: “Let us make our aim to work for peace and to strengthen one another.”

Finally, a procession reminds us that life on earth is merely that: a procession, a journey. We all must strive daily, with God’s grace, to reach the same final destination; heaven. So as we continue this earthly journey, may we always remember: Jesus leads and we follow as members of God’s holy family, as brothers and sisters united in Christ the One whose body and blood we are about to receive and who says: “Whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup will live forever and ever.” Amen.