Bishop Strickland: Ash Wednesday a time to reflect on the hope of God’s mercy

TYLER – Bishop Joseph E. Strickland said Ash Wednesday is a time to reflect on the promise and constant availability of God’s mercy.

Celebrating an Ash Wednesday service at the chapel in Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler Feb. 10 for hospital employees, Bishop Strickland said Ash Wednesday is “a time to be aware, yes, of our sinfulness,” but also to know “that we need not stop at our sinfulness. There is always the hope of God’s mercy, and it is extended to all of us, whatever faith journey we might be on.”

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The bishop noted that many of those filling the small chapel might not be Catholic, but said the ashes were available to all.

Bishop Strickland administers ashes to Holy Family of Nazareth Sister Irene Asztemborska at the Feb. 10 Ash Wednesday service in the chapel at Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler. Sister Irene is on the pastoral care staff at the hospital, which is sponsored by her congregation.
Bishop Strickland administers ashes to Holy Family of Nazareth Sister Irene Asztemborska at the Feb. 10 Ash Wednesday service in the chapel at Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler. Sister Irene is on the pastoral care staff at the hospital, which is sponsored by her congregation.

“It’s always a joy to me to know that we can all receive these ashes to be reminded of the Lord’s call for all humanity to live in the light of Jesus Christ,” he said. “I think (Ash Wednesday) is a good ecumenical day. We’re reminded that, yes, we have divisions in the world today, even divisions in faith, but those divisions are not in God. They’re manifestations of our own weak humanity.

“Christ calls us to oneness,” Bishop Strickland said. “On this Ash Wednesday, we invite all of you to receive ashes.”

He encouraged everyone present to “rejoice in the opportunity that this Ash Wednesday represents. In our Catholic tradition, it’s the beginning of Lent, what I like to call the retreat of the Church for the six weeks leading up to Easter.”

He urged those gathered to use the Lenten season “to remember the call to turn away from sin and to live the Good News, the message, of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Prior to the service, Bishop Strickland visited patients in the hospital, along with Fransalian Father Luke Kalarickal, hospital chaplain, and Father Christopher Ruggles, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Frankston.

“It was a great experience, as it always is, to bring hope, to bring the salve that is only possible through Jesus Christ,” the bishop said.

He reminded the gathered hospital employees that they are ministers of that hope and that healing.

“We heard in that beautiful reading from Joel, ‘give your whole heart,’” he said. “And I’m sure that many of you, when you hear ‘heart,’ you think of ventricles and aortic arteries and other technicalities, and you hope that the patients you’re working with do have whole hearts that are healthy.

“But that symbolic passage in Scripture that speaks of the heart of God’s people is very significant,” the bishop said. “I think we’d all agree that we need the mercy in the world today that this Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis signifies for us.”

Looking out at the assembled hospital community comprising doctors, nurses, technicians, volunteers, and administrators, Bishop Strickland said, “You may not always look at your work in that way, and I know you represent all the complex aspects of running a health care system. But I encourage you to be aware that, wherever you are working, you can be that minister of mercy, helping others to know healing, helping others to know hope, in the light of Jesus Christ.”

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