Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.
Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.
These are familiar words. Words which I’ve heard again and again. Words which have been spoken over me every year, since starting at a Catholic secondary school. Words which, haven’t had much significant, personal meaning too me… that is until today… As I stood and the cross-shaped ash marked my face, these words cut me like a knife – “remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Four months ago, along with my family, I stood in a garden at the crematorium, as we scattered the ashes of my late grandmother. And, as the ashes hit the ground, I remember thinking, is that it? Is that all that becomes of us in the end? How could my grandmother, who had lived a very full life, amount to a small amount of dust, which was now scattered on the ground?
And this morning, it hit me. The dust, or ash, that we use to mark our heads today is a sign of life and death, all at the same time.
The dust, or ash that we mark on our foreheads today, reminds us of our mortality, which causes us to examine our lives – which is why we are encouraged to either give things up, or take new things on. Yet, it also calls us to take hold of that life, which really is life (1 Tim. 6. 19). It’s so easy for us, as I did, to look at the dust and see nothingness. To see the end of something. Because, in our hands, dust disintegrates and disappears. But, in Gods hands, dust is how he reveals his glory. It was from dust that God created and formed us. It was from nothing that God put flesh on dry bones, and life in a dry womb. Those things which we dismiss as nothing, as insignificant, as worthless, they are the very things which God uses to reveal his glory. Which is why, I can look at the dust scattered next to my feet, and see life, not death; see a beginning, not an ending. Because, in Christ we know that life which really is life. That life which goes beyond our limited life here on earth. And with that knowledge, we have never been more fully alive!