In our Western culture we are largely protected from death. Mostly, it happens in antiseptic hospitals, or to people who have been sick for a long time or are old. Even those who die suddenly or in an accident are not quite real to us. We don’t lay out the bodies of our loved ones; very few of us even have the body in our homes. Death, that solemn transition that has loomed so large in the lives of humankind throughout history, is neatly sealed off from what we think of as our real lives.
Yet nothing is more certain than that you and I will die.
On Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, as we accept the mark of ashes on our head, we are reminded of our death:
“Remember, man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”
Ashes are for penance – a reminder to turn away from our sins and pray devoutly through this season of Lent.
But beyond that, the ashes are marked in the sign of the cross, and in the cross is our hope.
God bless you all on this holy day as we begin our journey to the wonder of the empty tomb and the joy of Pentecost.