It Always Begins in Dust and Ashes

– Ash Wednesday –

“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful.”  [Joel 2:12-13]

It always begins in ashes as the human being turns again to God. As much as we would like to think that we have earned another starting point, each year we are seemingly returned to the start – if for no other reason than to relearn that God is God and we are not. God is life, and by contrast, we are ash.

We stand in contrast to the One who is breathing his life into us in the very same way as he did to the first ‘Adam’. God offers to gather up the dust of our lives and, if we would only let him, to imbue what we call ‘ourselves’ with his Holy Spirit (Genesis 2:7).

We start this season in ash as we do every year, but we will end in an experience of life and light that, if we could only embrace it, would progressively and insistently transform who we are. For that is the journey that we are on; the journey from dust and ash and on to life and love as the Spirit-filled sons and daughters of God.

For people who are used to the Lenten experience, this time of the year can easily be rendered down to ‘doing this’ or ‘avoiding that’. And while there are probably things we should either do or avoid over the coming weeks, those things are far from the point.

They represent a more profound urgency – the call to give everything we are and do over to God.

But let us take heart from these words of Pope Francis: “More often than not, though, especially at times of difficulty and loneliness, we only see our dust! But the Lord encourages us: in his eyes, our littleness is of infinite value. So let us take heart: we were born to be loved; we were born to be children of God.” (Homily, Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020)


by Shane Dwyer

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