…and to dust you shall return.
That image of children huddled together on the front pew, looking towards the open doorway, eyes filled with growing panic, as young men crouch just inside then brave a look out once more…how close was that explosion…that image of Syrian Christians worshiping and wondering when they will be killed by ISIS, it sticks with me. Prayers for the persecuted take on a deeper reality and stick in my throat since seeing that video.
You are dust, and to dust you shall return.
I doubt those Syrian Christians need that Lenten reminder. But I do.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:24-26)
That would be me. Rich. Well fed. Always up for a good laugh. Reasonably respected.
I live in a culture that tells me I deserve a break today, and a half pound of beef at any moment I so have the hankerin’. I’m encouraged to follow my heart and enjoy life. “You only live once.” (But focus on the living and not the dying.)
And they make it so easy. Anything I want to know is at my fingertips: a plethora of entertainment options at any time of day without leaving the house; food of any kind, from every culture, on demand; whatever will numb me to the reality of my own mortality.
It may be that I live in Babylon the Great, for it appears true that:
…all nations have drunk
the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality,
and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her,
and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.
So, for 40 days or so it seems that it might be healthy to do what James said, “weep and howl,” or as John said, “Come out of her…lest [I] take part in her sins,” or at least shed some tears, deny my self-will, resist my cravings, and cry out to God.
I need Lent.
We are dust, and to dust we shall return.
We oh so very rich Christians in this culture that strives to make us forget death…because dead people don’t buy stuff…need Lent to remind us that we die.
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.” (I Peter 1:24-25)
Mortem cotidie ante oculos suspectam habere.
There is wisdom in that, “Keep death daily before your eyes.” (St. Benedict)
(Next: “Die quietly.”)