“By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3;19
The daily Mass readings that lead us to this Ash Wednesday bring us back to Genesis; to the story of our Creation and remind us that the God who created everything wants to heal us. He is that mighty wind that swept over the waters and formed the formless and enlightened the dark abysses. He wants to reform us back to Him. Because, as we are diverted farther away from Him, the fact that we are dust and to dust we shall return becomes a distant but haunting reality, one that leaves us vulnerable to the enemies’ attempts to enslave us to so many futile efforts to refute it. Ash Wednesday is our invitation to begin the journey to break those chains.
Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold now is the day of Salvation. 2 Cor 6:2
In fact, according to Paul, we who are in Christ are a new creation, which is good, because I have a God-given desire to be so much more than dust! I want to be beheld with “glory and honor” by my God.
However it is in the recognition that we are dust, the acceptance of our insignificance, our nothingness, our lowliness before the Almighty God that we can begin to know His great love for us. We can begin to place our trust in Him. We can be the little child who is not concerned with his stumbling as he learns to walk, he is only concerned with the loving encouragement of his mother and father.
Read the readings for today. What do they say to you? Where are you hearing the call to repentance and reformation in your life? What can you do during Lent to bring you to Jesus? What will remind you every day to reach out and touch the tassel of His cloak in your prayer so that you can become a new creation? Do you trust Him to do it? Are you afraid that you can’t do it?
Whatever penance you take up this Lent, remember that it is never too late to start, and you can never fall too many times in that penance. As Psalm 51 points out it is the contrite and sincere heart that brings our God to our aid. Our Lord wants to save us, and like the good and loving father so enthusiastically watching over his little ones as they begin to become this new creation, He never tires of helping us back to our feet. We are dust in His hands, if we were not we would not recognize our need for Him. We would not need to be made new in Him. Praise God that we do!
So do not fear the knowledge that you are dust! Do not be afraid to allow Him access to a deeply entrenched sin that distracts you from your most profound need of Him. Do not fear that in the process of being reformed you will fall, perhaps again and again! And above all, do not fear the silence of God, He has not left you, He is strengthening you.
But do not just take my word for it! Take it from the Little Flower, who truly understood how deeply God loves us in our lowliness. I am reading a book called I Believe in Love…A personal retreat based on the teachings of Saint Therese of Lisiuex written by Father Jean C. J. d’Elbee, (I highly recommend it) and it contains a quote from one of the letters that the Little Flower wrote to her sister Celine:
What does it matter to my Jesus, if I fall every moment? It shows me my weakness and that is great gain for me…….do not fear, the poorer you are the more Jesus will love you.”
So I say again with Saint Paul:
“Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold now is the day of salvation.”
Peace and grace to all of you!