Father George Homily Inspirational

Back to Where We Started

Ash Wednesday (RCL Cycle B)

14 February 2024

Ashes — charcoal black, smoothed grit, damped by a bit of oil, spread lavishly or stingily across a smooth brow. Some of us will pray for just a tiny smudge, not a glaring cross; others move silently down the aisle, happy to be marked outrageously, bits of dust dropping down their cheeks.

It’s all right to think of death — just today. Tomorrow, don’t talk about wills or funeral arrangements. That would tempt the reaper, wouldn’t it?

We tend to go from being practical Christians to superstitious humans the day after today. A priest I know preached on one far-back Ash Wednesday: “Who of us won’t be here next year?” he asked. Well, that was awkward. We don’t really want to think about that journey into transformed, resurrected life. Leave that until we have no other recourse than to stare our mortality in the face and try to turn away.

Ashes — marking us, reminding us, encouraging us to grasp those words: “You are dust and to dust you shall return.” Yes, we shall return to dust. The one leading the committal may let earth fall gently into the grave, to rattle on the coffin, bringing the dead back to its origin. Or the ashes of our humanity may be thrown to the wind, poured into an ocean, laid gently on a field — but Christ calls out, “It’s not the end!”

In death, the grit of ash is brushed away by God’s hand and the dead are transformed into light, cloaked with love, and united with God. For us, today, the living who will walk back down the aisle and out into the world, the ash might be brushed away by our own hand — but a hand cupped in God’s own.

We, too, can be transformed while we are still here — transformed by light, cloaked with love, and united with God in our living among God’s people. Let the mark, the grit, the oil, the feel of another’s finger on our brow help us look without fear at our mortality. Let the reminder that we are being transformed from glory to glory by God’s love and promise of resurrection help us face who and what we are with courage, confident in God’s promise of everlasting life.


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