Remember, You Are Dust, and Unto Dust You Shall Return

Mortality, the reality that I will die, is not something I choose to dwell on particularly often.  Sure, I am aware of it, but my own hard-wiring to stay busy has prevented this fact from really seeping into my consciousness.  On Ash Wednesday, which ushers in the liturgical season of Lent (still a long ways away), I go to Church and receive ashes on my forehead in the shape of a cross with the priest or minister proclaiming: “Remember, you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”  Whether to serve as a caveat or a gentle reminder, the statement encourages reflection.

Why?  What’s the point?  Life seems busy enough just happening.  Why reflect on a future event that will come, with or without my added intellectual reflection?

The answer is found in the Gospel.  In his homily today the priest mentioned that the time will come for each of us to face God.  He will ask, “How did you treat me in my distressing disguise of the ‘poorest of the poor’ i.e. the homeless, the criminals, and the people we have a difficult time wishing well.”  There’s a problem if the answer is, “I just didn’t think it was you.  I didn’t realize….”  As children of God our raison d’etre is to love each person as God loves us.  Anything less than a total love means we’re missing the mark.

The above artwork entitled “Remember” is by Matthew Kirby, a Brooklyn painter whom I came in contact with via Heather King.  Tonight I helped Matthew print photographs of this painting and several of his other works.  As art is wont to do, it caused me to reflect that my time here is limited.  As Pope Paul VI said, “There are only so many tomorrow’s, begin today what you want to accomplish.”  Far from being a morbid thought, acknowledging that there is an end encourages us to treat as sacred the time that is happening now.

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