“Remember … that you are dust and into dust you shall return.”
The very first word we encounter as we begin the season of Lent.
The very first word spoken to us as we present our naked foreheads to be marked by dust.
The very first word we hear as the cross of Christ is etched on our skin.
It’s so easy to forget what we’re really all about as human beings. It’s so easy to forget what the end point for each of us is … and so easy to forget what’s really important, what really counts when all is said and done.
Our lives are filled with so many distractions and demands and “have to’s.”
First, we have the truly important matters that must be taken care of: our families, our jobs, our mortgage payments, our taxes. But then we have the ones that we’ve made into seemingly important issues: our TV shows, our sport teams, our Facebook posts, our incessantly ringing smartphones, our social commitments … and a host of other demands that we’ve come to believe we simply can’t do without – things we no longer just “want,” but we’ve now decided we “need.”
The problem is that in the midst of all these energy drainers, we tend to forget. We try to make ourselves remember, especially on Sundays. But, by and large, we find that a whole other dimension of life easily slips from our mind: our spiritual selves, our God-centered consciousness.
We don’t do it purposely. We simply forget. Too much else going on. Too many other interruptions constantly whispering in our ears. Too many competing demands for our time and attention.
And so, the Church creates a time period called Lent whose whole purpose is to in effect urge each of us – if I may be forgiven a football metaphor – to “call time out on the field,” gather together in a kind of “huddle,” and listen carefully to just one important word: “Remember.”
Remember… to find time each day to pray, to place ourselves in quiet before the Lord.
Remember… to be charitable, to give generously of all that we have to those who have so little.
Remember… to fast, to pull ourselves away from at least one of our many diversions and put it completely aside for a period of time.
And, most importantly, to remember daily to make this time called Lent a sacred one in which we review the whole situation of our life by asking ourselves some very important questions:
What is it, as one writer puts it, that I need to “tear out of my soul by the roots?” What attachments do I need to cut out of my heart with the “scissors of love?”
And begin by remembering daily what the end point of our whole life really is.
Here’s a little prayer from St. Francis of Assisi that I use every day to help me remember. Perhaps you’ll find it helpful, too:
“Keep a clear eye toward life’s end. Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God’s creature. What you are in His sight is what you are and nothing more. Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing you have received … but only what you have given: a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.”
Or, to put it another way: “Remember … that you are dust and into dust you will return.”
Ted Wolgamot, Psy.D.