By Father Jonathan.
No, that’s not dirt on your co-worker’s forehead. Today in the Western Christian calendar is Ash Wednesday. For more than a billion Christians worldwide (Lutheran, United Methodist, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Wesleyan, and many others), it is a day to recall together our mortality and need for repentance.
This year, in my own life, and I dare say perhaps too in our country and globe, the stark state of our human transience, weakness, and sinfulness is recalled with greater ease.
In these turbulent times we are blessed to feel our insufficiency in a way that many of our ancestors never did. Because of our pain we are now less likely to stay on a treadmill leading to nowhere. We are more likely to work for things that last.
A superficial glance back to this time last year suffices to prove how much life can change, so quickly, for so many. Economic and political security blankets have vanished overnight. We find ourselves newly dependent on variables outside of our control, and quite apparently outside the control of any single person or party. And those are just the changes we can see. We can feel so many more. A reflective look into our own hearts and into the evolving and devolving fabric of society will surely expose changes of other sorts–failed or restored relationships, broken or kept promises, growth in vice or virtue.
This morning as I stood in line for ashes and heard the words repeated softly by the minister to each of my confreres, “Remember, O man, that you are dust and unto dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19), I thought too of the billions of men and women, who over the last thousand years of this great tradition, have also heard these words, and now are what they were promised they would become: dust, again. And at once it occurred to me, that in these turbulent times we are blessed to feel our insufficiency in a way that many of them never did. Because of our pain we are now less likely to stay on a treadmill leading to nowhere. We are more likely to work for things that last.