“Pardon the dust, we are under construction.” Today, we are told that over a billion people will receive ashes on their heads as a start to the lenten season. “Pardon the dust, we are under construction,” was a line that was woven into our penance service last night by one of the priest faculty members here at the seminary. He said that we can look at the Season of Lent as a construction site. While a building is being built, dust is always around. But, the building still gets built and eventually the dust will be removed and cleaned up. Lent is a time for on going construction of our lives. We are dusty and dirty but still have hope that our buildings (bodies and souls) will be constructed and cleaned for the glory of God. Today the Bishop emeritus of Santa Rosa, CA led our annual day of recollection. The ashes we are signed with today have several purposes.
First they are a sign of our mortality. We are “from dust and to dust we shall return.” All things on earth are temporary, even our lives. For truly all of us yearn and strive our best for that perfect communion with our Creator. Let us not be attached to the things of this world for that is all dust. Rather, let us attach to the things of the world to come.
Secondly, these ashes is a sign of repentance. In the early days of the church and even in scripture it says that those who have offended God are to wear “sackcloth and ashes” and beg for mercy. Today we do just that. In the first reading of the Mass of Ash Wednesday, we are told from the Prophet Joel, “…return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord your God.” – Joel 2:12. No one is perfect and these ashes is a sign to admit our failings and with complete trust in God try our best to make amends for our sins and avoid any occasion of sin. We do this by fasting, prayer, and charity.
Thirdly and finally, we are told in the second reading today from the letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians that “We are ambassadors for Christ” 2 Cor 5:20. The Bishop took light of this. During lent, yes, we walk in the desert with Christ. We make penance, fast, and take part in his death and resurrection. The Bishop suggested that while we do this, it is important to look at those who are crucified in our own world today in 2012. They are our brothers and sisters too. They too, have “dust and is under construction.” We need to walk with them just as we walk with Christ. To see Christ in the unwed mother, the alcoholic, those in abusive relationships, drug addict, homeless children, the hungry, the poor, the immigrant and so much more may be hard to see and even fathom, but, they are being crucified and we must help them carry their crosses.
May these ashes we wear today be a sign to the world that we are not perfect but we are trying. May it be a sign of hope for a hopeless world as we see the suffering Christ in all. May this season of dust construct our lives into a new building this Easter. Happy Lent 2012!