Thou Art Dust….

My friend Karla mentioned to me today that she found this line that the minister can choose when distributing ashes to be “a bummer””

“Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”

She preferred the alternate line: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” Or “Repent and believe in the gospel.”

My friend Patrick Giles, now deceased, always preferred the old-school way. And frankly, so do I. That said, I’m not OPPOSED to the new way. I just like the sentiment of the old formula.

Lent is a time that’s about remembering or awakening to the fact that God is in our lives. It’s so much more about God and what God wants and does for us than about us–as my pastor Fr. Jack Ledwon said in his homily today.

I think I need the reminder that I’ll be dead soon enough and therefore, I need to live more joyfully rather than with dread, more hope than regret, and more faith rather than fear.

God has so much more in store for me–or does he? I may be dead in a week–a morbid thought, to be sure and one that would give any of us the willies. But still, it is a fact that we are mortal, limited beings. We don’t have forever and so the time to appreciate the present moment is now.

I think people need to hear that sometimes. My medical students, who all impress me, are around death often–but do they realize that death can and will come for them just as easily when the time is there’s to be called home? And so today I put those ash marks on them and used those words.

I often look in someone’s eyes, someone who is living with abandon and who smiles coming forth for ashes usually hears the “Repent” line from me. I figure they already know that their time is limited and they’re not wasting it—but they might live a bit too easily–a bit too recklessly.

They might need to hear another message.

But most of us, can’t imagine our own death, the end of our mortality. And obviously we don’t know when death’s call will come for us–and hopefully it won’t come soon. But it is not all that far off from us–our time is limited. Even 100 years in the bigger scheme of life is not all that much time. George Washington would be nearly 300 years old today and he lived to be less than a third of that time.

What will we do with our time? More importantly, what will God do for us? Where will God call us and how will we respond to that call?

If we consider that one day we will all be dust, we just might awaken to a world that is embued with the glory of God, a world with much to offer each one of us.

This lent, may you not only awaken yourself to God’s love in our limited lives, but also might make the lives of another who has lost hope all that more joyful–awakening them to the fact that God has not forgotten them–but rather calls them to live with great joy because they are loved.

And he calls us to do the same. After all, like a newborn baby, we should enjoy being loved while we still can…

Because soon enough, we’ll be gone, forgotten.

Like dust…in the wind.

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