In the new Forward Today, Scott reflects on Ash Wednesday, writing that this day “reminds us that life is a gift from God.”
Dear friends in Christ,
When I was a parish priest, I loved imposing ashes. People of all sorts and conditions would present themselves at the altar rail. They would kneel. And as I put the ashes on their foreheads, I would say, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Some people would have specially arranged their hair to make it easier to apply the cross. Some people looked bored, while others seemed to be struggling to take in the solemn warning. Young and old, long-time members and strangers all gathered to receive the ashes.
There is one cross I remember more than others. A whole family was preparing for baptism, including three children, the youngest of which was an infant. They all knelt, babe in arms. And there, I made an ash cross on the baby’s forehead. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
It was a breathtaking reminder that all of us, even babies, are marching toward death. But there is good news. You see, Ash Wednesday reminds us that life is a gift from God. We don’t have much time in our earthly journey, so we should use this time well. We should do everything in our power to grow into the full stature of Jesus Christ. We should love as much as we can. We should be as merciful as we can be. We should work for justice with our whole heart. Ash Wednesday reminds us, graphically, that it’s not all about us.
We are marked as Christ’s. Everything we do is about Jesus Christ. The Lenten season offers us an annual opportunity to reorient ourselves, to reject those things that remove us from Jesus and take on those things that draw us closer to him.
The first time I went to Ash Wednesday, I was an adult. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The priest told me I’m going to die. And I was grateful for the reminder, and for the invitation to repent.
I hope you will gather with your church on Ash Wednesday and recommit to savoring this precious gift of life and using it well.
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