Posted by: fvbcdm | March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday (5 March 2014)

“Remember that you are dust and unto dust you will return.” Those simple and profound words have been spoken over millions of the faithful down through the centuries. They are as timely today as ever; even more so, since our modern secularistic world is more and more losing its consciousness of the basic realities of human existence.

But, when we are told that we are dust and to dust we will return, that is only part of the story. The Church could just as truly say to us: Remember that you are spirit and you will live forever, either with God or without him. The Holy Season of Lent places before us the fact that we human beings are situated between a number of conflicting realities. We are both body, drawn from the dust of the earth, and spirit, breathed into us by the creative action of our God. We are both temporal and eternal. Our lives on this earth will last, on average, seventy or eighty years. Our lives after death will last forever. We are confronted with moral good and moral evil. That is, we can choose to do what is conducive to our salvation, and therefore what is God’s will, or what is opposed to it, and therefore opposed to God’s will. Those of us who live doing God’s will are virtuous; those who live disobeying God’s will are sinners.

It always strikes me that we here in New Orleans are fortunate to have our carnival season which reaches its climax with all the make-believe and foolishness of Mardi Gras. And then the next day is Ash Wednesday. The contrast is remarkable.  It is not by accident that many of our carnival organizations, with their parades through the streets and their elegant balls are named for the pagan deities: Proteus, Momus, Comus, Orpheus, Apollo, Zeus, etc. When we want to indicate revelry, make-believe, nonsense just for fun, we reach back into the fictitious world of mythology which was invented by people who felt the need for religion, but had no clear ideas about it.  But then, at the stroke of midnight on Mardi Gras night, all of that ends like a pretty bubble that bursts and we get back to reality, which is ultimately far more satisfying, because we know that it’s true.  It’s fine to wear a mask for a day and pretend to be someone we are not, but it is far more salutary to allow the Church to smear ashes on our heads and remind us of that which is profoundly real: Your body was drawn from the dust and it will return to dust.

Your soul is immortal. Will you live forever in joy, or in sorrow? In victory or in defeat? The Mardi Gras season might be fun, but I doubt that it does anybody much good spiritually.  But the Holy Season of Lent is of enormous value to us spiritually, and if we live it according to the mind of the Church and therefore the will of God, we will one day be very happy to have observed Lent as we should. The greater the present fervor, the greater the future joy.

So, my dear friends: remember that you are dust and your are spirit. And remember which is the more important, and how we can further the well-being of each. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

 Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

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