Military archbishop: With war raging, the call to 'return to Lord' at Lent 'is urgent'

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese of the Military Services celebrates Ash Wednesday Mass at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., March 2, 2022. (CNS photo/courtesy U.S. Archdiocese of the Military Services)

BETHESDA, Md. (CNS) -- With war raging in Ukraine, "the call for a return to the Lord is urgent," the head of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services said during a noon Ash Wednesday Mass he celebrated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in the Washington suburb of Bethesda.

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio implored the congregation of staffers and service members to "return to the Lord" during this holy season of Lent as Russian troops rampage through Ukraine, killing innocent civilians, inflicting mass destruction and causing a humanitarian crisis as hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians seek refuge in other countries.

"We pray for the turning of all hearts to him as Christians battle Christians in a senseless war," the archbishop said, drawing on the first reading for the March 2 Mass, a passage from the prophet Joel, in which he proclaims: "Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart with fasting, and weeping and mourning."

"The cry for peace and justice is urgent, and we long to see it realized," Archbishop Broglio said in his homily.

He spoke frankly to the Walter Reed health care providers, acknowledging they know what the real cost of war is.

"We see an attempt to occupy a free nation. We see death and destruction. The innocent suffer, and we wonder, 'How long, oh Lord,'" he said. "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," he said. "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 the Lent's 40 days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for Easter by engaging 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," he said. "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," he continued. "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."

Archbishop Broglio 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."


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