Placing the ashes on the foreheads of friends in the congregation had me thinking about our mutual journey.
On Ash Wednesday, we tear the veil that keeps us sane. We acknowledge that we all must die eventually and return to the dust, the stardust, the heavens of which we are made. Will this grand unmasking leave us in an existential void?
Or, can we use this great reminder for something else? Can we, must we take this humbling reality and use it as a salve to heal those around us, as they journey through life? Our voyage will one day land on inevitable shores, but it's in caring for those who walk with us and after us, like those who walked before us, that we pry open the heart to share the grace that is there for us to accept.
The life we must one day surrender is not a life without ramification. We are in a symbiotic relationship with every creature on this earth. We are in a symbiotic relationship with the earth itself. A life without that interdependency is a life not lived.
And, like all relationships where one feeds the other and vice versa, the removal of one of those lives not only does great harm but can endanger or imperil the other. We mutually rely on each other. It's in our successful, healthy living that we can flourish. Together.
So yes, we will return to dust... And yet, meanwhile....
The Christ we follow asks us to be in relationship with each other, in families and in communities. When it was time for him to die, he instructed John to take care of Mary. That's our charge as well. We're to take care of each other as though we are taking care of the mother of Christ, for Christ.
And throughout the Gospels, almost every parable and story talks about His care for the needy and the sick. That's not a coincidence. There would be no miracles if Christ left the sick to fend for themselves. Miracles arise out of caring for the life of the other.
So yes, we face a mortality on Ash Wednesday that weighs on us heavily throughout Lent. We see and acknowledge that our loved ones as well as we ourselves will no longer be able to share an intimate laugh or tear some day. But we must be the healing love that binds our past joys and pains to our future joys and pains. With a little care and perhaps some stitches, the wound of death can still connect the living, breathing tissues left behind.
May we all on this day of dust also remember to be the grace and healing for the our families, for the human family, for the earth.