Almost a year ago, we began the Easter season with a roaring fire at the door of the Church – we re-lived the creation of the universe, and it exploded into hundreds of points of light: small, bright candles that were held by every one in the church. We sang: “Christ Our Light, thanks be to God.” And we were made new.
Now, it is a year later.
And what we are left with…is ashes.
So for this one day we will bear that mark — the remnants of a great blaze, the residue of a fiery faith that maybe has cooled, that isn’t as strong as it could be.
And for this day, we will let others see this mark, as a sign of repentance, and humility, and humanity. Maybe, as the day goes on, we will forget about it, and suddenly catch sight of ourselves in the bathroom mirror, and realize, with a shock:
We are dust. And to dust we will return.
And we will see others like us on the street and think: we have plenty of company.
Ultimately, that is all we are in this earthly life: dust. But we dream to be more. We know we can be more. And so we make this 40-day journey – joining Jesus in the desert – to strive to be better than what we are, and become what we hope to be.To become more than dust – to become, in fact, light. Burning, brilliant light.
And so we join the psalmist and sing:
“Be merciful Lord, for we have sinned.”
We rend our hearts.
And we begin this long walk into the wilderness.
Because we are dust. And to dust we will return.
We wear this mark, if only for this day, as a reflection of where we came from, and where we are all destined to go.
But we are reminded of something else, too: it is the middle that matters.
It is that lifetime stretching in between that matters.
What will we do with that time? How will we live? What will we be?
These 40 days are a blessed opportunity to carry those questions in our hearts – and in answering them, reconcile ourselves with one another, and with God.
Hundreds of years ago, St. Catherine of Siena said, “If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.”
This day, look at the ashes.
But think of the fire.
And let us pray, this Lent, to set the world ablaze.