Remember that you are dust, but from an empty tomb you will rise
“The Lord God fashioned man out of the dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7
On Ash Wednesday this week many of us will have received the ash of repentance upon our foreheads to the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The passage above from tomorrow’s first reading at Mass shows us the true meaning of this repentance. As Christians we do not bemoan our own mortality or look to the grave with despair but rather call to mind our utter reliance upon God and our hope in the new life he offers us that leads us through and beyond the grave.
Our Lenten almsgiving, prayer and fasting begins with this calling to mind of our own nature, wounded though it is. We are created, fashioned, by the hand of the almighty; each of us uniquely in his own image. Our being is sustained by his will to hold all things in being, his constant love breathes into us the spirit of life that animates our souls and calls our hearts towards him.
In our Lenten observances we remember in a special way not only the woundedness of our nature but also its reliance upon God: Ultimately upon the redemptive love poured out for us on the Cross that brings about the healing of that wounded nature that we all strive to realise in our daily lives. By surrendering ourselves to God through our Lenten observance; by working to heal the wounds in our world through almsgiving, to heal our wounded relationship with God through prayer and to heal our woundedness of self through fasting; we strive to create a space in our hearts once again into which God can breathe a second life: The life of the resurrection that, at the end of our forty days, will greet us from the open tomb. We remember that we came from dust and were it not for the Cross and Resurrection of Christ which overwhelms the grave, to dust we would return. No longer is that return a fear or an unstoppable march towards oblivion but rather a gateway and redemption.
In this Lenten season let us all once again remember our total reliance upon God and strive through our almsgiving, prayer and fasting to create that space in our hearts, into which the Holy Spirit can be breathed anew as the grave is broken, death’s sting lost and our transgressions put “as far as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12 “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” reminds us that our whole life is held in the palm of His hand and we dwell now and forever beneath the shadow of His wings.