Ashes will be traced, in the form of a cross, on foreheads today, Ash Wednesday, that starts the season of Lent. No matter who you are, we all get the same reminder: “Remember man that you are dust. And unto dust you will return.”
All year round, we all dodge the reality of mortality. Quit shilly-shallying and get real, Ash Wednesday drills into us. We’re all flawed and “journeying …to the grave.”
“Presume not to promise yourself the next morning,” 14th-century writer Thomas a’ Kempis counsels. “And in the morning, consider you may not live till nightfall… Many die when they least think of it… A man is here today. And tomorrow, he is gone. And when he is taken out of sight, he is also quickly out of mind.”
“Ask therefore “what if this day were to be my last?” suggests Augustine “Og” Mandino II, World War II bombardier turned author. “This day is all I have… Each hour cannot be banked today to be withdrawn on the morrow, for who can trap the wind or the day from stopping?”
“Today, I shall embrace my children and my woman. Tomorrow, they will be gone. And so will I. Today, I will lift up a friend in need. Tomorrow, he will no longer cry for help. Nor will I hear his cries… Tomorrow, I will have nothing to give. And there will be none to receive. Each minute of today must be more fruitful than the hours of yesterday… I will live today as if it is my last. And if it is not, I shall fall on my knees to give thanks.”
Three things we do with these Lenten ashes, we confess. We promise. We hope… in a journey towards renewal. And the Lenten ashes give us the confidence to do so.
Renewal is the keyword.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust it will never be the same. But we’re all forgiven, we’re only living. To leave the way we came.” (The Fifth Dimension)