Podcast: Ash Wendesday
“Remember, O mortal, that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”
With those words, the 40 days of Lent open.
They are a stark contrast to other words we are often more wont to hear in practicing our faith. Words like these from the Psalmist:
“You have made us a little lower than the angels
and crowned us with glory and honor.
You made us rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under our feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.”
Or another we like to hear from John’s gospel: “I call you friends, for I have passed on to you all that I know.”
Crowned with honor and glory; the friend of Jesus – these words inspire us to believe in ourselves and do great things.
And then comes Ash Wednesday: “Remember, or mortal, that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.
Those are sobering words. They’re supposed to be. The Church is calling us to enter into a time of deep spiritual reflection. We are being invited to take stock of ourselves. We are being reminded that in the hustle and bustle of life we can slowly lose perspective on things that matter. We can begin to place ourselves and our needs, our wants and our desires, in a position contrary to the gospel’s call to love God, to love neighbor, and to love self.
Those stark words remind us of our place in the universe, and are intended to invite us into a season of reflection on our mortality. So much of what we listen to in our day to day life is an enticement: buy this product that will make you feel younger, buy this car that will improve your reputation with your neighbors, buy this drug that will make you feel better, buy this dress that will make you look prettier.
Advertising plays on our feelings of emptiness and inadequacy, and teaches us that having more resolves those feelings of insecurity and fear. Ironically, they also induce those feelings of inadequacy and fear - making it all the more likely that we will turn to their products to resolve those feelings.
Ash Wednesday serves to remind us of our place in the world. Mortals made of dust are not going to find their redemption in a pill or a car or fancy clothes or rich foods. We are dependent on the grace of God, the love of the Creator, and the redeeming love of one who came that others may have life, and have it abundantly.
Ash Wednesday opens Christians up to 40 days of prayer and fasting, a time for the inner examination of choices and priorities and in preparation for a life spent in gratitude for one who both created and redeemed us.
In this Lenten season, I pray that you find time to assess your relationship with your Sacred. I pray for a deepening awareness of the luxury of time we have on this blessed Earth – and that all of us will commit to choosing love of self and neighbor over love of money and power. May your Lenten explorations commit you to love and justice on this, our journeys Into the Mystic.