A time when the Church’s calendar drops a reminder on us that we are mortal. Not that we don’t know it. But sometimes life can become so hurried that we forget how fast we come and go.
Ashes to ashes. In the greater scheme of things, the vast majority of us will long be forgotten a hundred years from now. Interred in some back corner of a cemetery with a modest grave marker that nobody will visit.
A rare few have celebrity now, but will be forgotten nonetheless. I was in a Best Buy some years ago and two young girls were looking at the CD section. I heard one say to another, “My Mom says they were happening when she was little.” I glanced around them to see who they were talking about. They were looking at The Beatles.
Only a barely measurable number will be remembered through the ages. And as often as not, those who reach that level have lives most of us, save for the trappings of notoriety and possible material fortune, wouldn’t envy.
The rest of us? For all we do in this life, it’s fleeting. Our children, possibly our grand children, and if we’re really long lived, maybe our great grandchildren, will remember. But in a hundred or so years, everything we have in this world, including our names, will likely be done.
So either we come to grips with the fact that our lives have no ultimate purpose, and once the earth comes to an end – which everyone seems to agree will happen, one way or another – then the fact that humanity ever existed is no more meaningful than an amoeba.Or we accept that there is something more than merely the rocks and stones and flesh we see on a given day; beyond all that seems clear and obvious to our senses. Something that the bulk of humanity, from the beginning, has been attuned to in some form or another.
That is what Ash Wednesday is all about. Reminding us of the ultimate finality of this side of life, and calling us to prepare for what lies beyond. Through prayer, fasting, and alms giving, we’re called to put the brakes on the rat race and get with the marathon.
So today, I think of those who have gone before. My Dad, my Grandparents and aunts and uncles and loved ones and friends. I’m reminded that this life is merely a second womb in which wait to be born into the real life we’re prepared for. I look at things around us, including Trump’s address that I’m honor bound to avoid commenting on, and consider praying for him and all who were there. Those who weren’t. Those around me.
And I get ready for a counter-cultural break from our society in the form of Lent. Where things hopefully come back into perspective. What we’re really all about becomes clearer. And the God we’re made by and made for moves closer to the center of my life, when it’s so easy for Him to be pushed aside.