Remember You Are Dust

Frank Enderle
Reproduced with Permission

Today we gather here to celebrate the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. As we all know, in this Mass the most important and significant element is the traditional rite during which ashes are imposed on our foreheads as a sign of the sorrow we feel for having sinned.

As the ashes are being imposed on your forehead, you will hear the priest, deacon or minister say one of two phrases. The first reminds us of the words that God said to Adam after the Original Sin: “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.” From time to time we need to hear these words. Sometimes we forget that our lives are finite and that without God our lives are empty shells. If we really think about it we will soon come to the realization that without Jesus in our lives, we are like little piles of ashes: easily blown away by the varying winds of whatever is going on around us. These ashes we will receive today are a sign of the limits that our life has. We are mortal and some day we will die.

The other phrase that we might hear today is "Turn away from sin and receive the gospel." With the ashes we will receive today, the Church reminds us that we should always be on the road to conversion. True conversion is shown in our daily conduct, in the way we act when small problems occur in life, in the way we accept the teaching of Christ as we have received it in Holy Scripture. It is shown in the frequency of our reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist. The extra bit of mortification that we are asked to do during the Lenten season: the almsgiving, the fasting and the abstinence, are special steps that we take to strengthen our spirit so that we can overcome temptations that can lead us to leave the road to conversion and take the road that leads to sin. All of our Lenten practices lead us to the realization that conversion, a lasting change in our lives, can only come about through sacrifice and perseverance. Lent proclaims the mercy without end that God has for us. Jesus offers us pardon for our sins and asks us to show true conversion by showing true remorse for the times we have done wrong and the times we failed to do good, by taking up our cross, as he did, and following him. This is not always easy to do but it is what the Lord asks of us.

My sisters and brothers, Lent is a time of mortification and internal renewal. It is a time to purify our souls, a time to renew our spiritual lives. During these forty days of Lent, the Lord asks us to try with all our hearts to direct our thoughts and our prayers towards him, to turn away from sin and receive the sacrament of Penance before we return to the earth from which Adam and Eve were created. Let us consider Lent to be a time of change and of hope and let us remember that we cannot truly live out this holy season without following the road to the Cross that Jesus Christ shows us, without making an authentic change in our own lives.