Skip to main content

Bishop Burbidge's homily at farewell Mass of Thanksgiving


Saint Michael the Archangel Church
November 29, 2016

There are three words that come to my mind this evening: thanksgiving, trust and today.

Though filled with many emotions as I prepare to depart the diocese I love so much, tonight’s Mass, as is every Mass, is one of thanksgiving. Ever since I received the news that I was appointed the Bishop of Arlington, I have reflected on what the Lord has done for me these past ten years—and I have so many reasons to be grateful.

Upon arriving in the diocese, I was a bit overwhelmed, for there is no school for bishops that teach you how to be an Ordinary. You learn on the spot. In addition, it was my first time serving outside my home Archdiocese, and I knew immediately the South had a lot to teach me. Of course, I was also aware of my limitations and weaknesses. Yet, I continued to be helped by God’s promise, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah tonight: that the Spirit of the Lord, a Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel and strength shall rest upon us to lead and to guide us. That is exactly what God has done for me and our diocese, and for that I am most thankful.

In addition, throughout these ten years, the Lord has blessed me with the fraternal support of wonderful priests, whose faithfulness, zeal and generous service continue to inspire me. The Lord has also surrounded me with dedicated deacons, consecrated religious, seminarians, colleagues and the faithful witness of the laity throughout this diocese, including our young people. At this Mass, I give thanks to God for the gift all of you have been to me, and know that I will continue to keep you close to my heart as I ask all of you to keep me in your prayers.

Now having said how thankful I am for all that God has done for me and our diocese brings me to the word trust. As I prepare to begin a new ministry in the Diocese of Arlington, guess what is happening? Questions like these: Lord, will I be able to start all over again and respond to the responsibilities that will come my way? Is this the right timing? Will I be able to “let go” as you desire? While our weak human nature can draw us back to anxiety, doubt and fear, we cannot stay in that place if we are true followers of Christ.

How fortunate we are in this sacred Season of Advent as the Church lifts up for us the beautiful example of Mary our Mother, who was initially confused about God’s plan. Yet, as a servant of the Lord, she trusted and said: “Let it be done to me according to your Word.” It is that trust that Jesus speaks about in tonight’s Gospel and for which we pray, since we know that it is only in saying “yes” to the Lord’s holy will that we find the peace and joy for which we long. Tonight and especially throughout this Advent season, may we promise anew to have childlike trust in the God whose Spirit rests upon us to lead and guide us.

It is only human to look to the past and to treasure wonderful memories, as I certainly do upon concluding my tenure as your bishop. Yet, the sacred Season of Advent reminds us about “today.” Today, now is the hour for us to stay awake; to stay vigilant; to stay ready and prepared to meet the Lord. Today is God’s gift to us and provides us with the opportunity to echo Mary’s “yes”: “Lord, let it be done to me according to your Word.” 

Through her intercession and with the grace of her Son, may we be filled with a spirit of thanksgiving for all God’s blessings; may we trust in his divine plan and make sure that today and every day we stay vigilant and prepared so that we may live with the Lord both now and forever. Amen.