Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 7, 2005
See your ash cross each and every day
Dust to dust, ashes to ashes. When I was a child, dirt was a stark reminder of where we arose and where we shall return to. I was led to believe that we are, by nature, walking, talking, thinking and doing packages of dust and ashes.
There is not much value in dust and ashes. Gardeners know they can be used to help grow plants, but basically they are worthless.
In fact, dust is often less than worthless. It is a hindrance and a liability. You can't make it pretty by painting it, or make it smell good by spraying perfume on it.
Dust is dust; ashes are ashes. And the plain fact is they both are largely to be avoided.
And that is us too. When all is said and done, righteousness is like rags upon us. Our virtue is but a spray of perfume upon thoughts and feelings and deeds that are best buried and forgotten.
So why do we bother smearing ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday?
We do so because as we gather to remember who we are, we also gather to remember who God is, and what God has done for us in and through Jesus Christ.
The death of Jesus was God's way of placing a sign of infinite value upon that which would otherwise be worthless. On Ash Wednesday we are reminded that God has chosen to give us some other life than that which leads to the dust heap and the ash pit.
And all that God asks of us in this is that we accept his mercy and that we remember we are sinners, and repent and believe in Jesus Christ.
Ash Wednesday is about remembering our sinfulness as well as remembering God's mercy and love.
A sad reality of my generation is the lack of the ability to engage in a conversation about human sinfulness. Sin is a reality that we can never be proud of; it is also a reality that will never leave our world, will never leave our lives. It is a reality that we will constantly struggle with until our lives on earth are over.
In today's society, we have become adept at displaying our strengths and hiding our weaknesses. Therefore, sin being a weakness is something that we find difficult to view from a positive perspective. We have become experts in parading what we have done and concealing what we have failed to do.
We have become experts in pointing out others' sins and neglecting to recognize our own. We sometimes are quick to point to others' misgivings but fail to notice how we have been selfish and self-centred.
Sometimes, because we have been used to our own little pious circles, we tend to assume an unwelcoming attitude towards others who want to walk in the path of repentance. We have become skillful in driving others away from the faith because we cannot bear the fact that those sinners have the same right as children of God.
In fact, the biting truth is, if there would be an accounting of our achievements and failures as witnesses of Christ, the list of failures might be longer.
Ash Wednesday is a chance to reflect on our constant struggle with sin and how we need God's grace to protect our frail nature as human beings. The most important of all, this season is a chance for us to reflect upon the never-ending love of God, who always welcomes a repentant sinner.
And remember, dust though we are, we are called to be loving, forgiving and caring dust.
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