“You are dust and onto dust you shall return”
– Genesis 3:19
There are many Catholics who lined up to receive their ashes on Wednesday and secretly hoped the priest gives them the “positive” blessing: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” “You are dust, unto dust you shall return” is seen by some as a bit morbid or negative, and they don’t want to think about it.
I can see the misunderstanding if you don’t look at the context of when and why it is being said. There is a very uplifting message of love that must be taken into consideration when hearing these words.
The spirit of Lent is humility. It’s purpose reminds us of the fact that we are nothing without God and His mercy and love. We are the dust into which He breathes life. The image of dust provides a more vivid and actual truth of our humanity: We are passing away and need to be aware our time here is God’s, not our own.
Our avoidance of this truth can lead us further into sin and away from God, or make us lackadaisical, resulting in lukewarm faith, and careless use of our precious time. He wants us to give this gift freely back to him through prayer, sacrifice, living according to his law, and loving others as he loves us.
This is what Lent is about. It’s about remembering how little we are and how loving and merciful our God is. Its further about the true miracle of miracles that is to come with Jesus’s death and resurrection, and our opportunity to repent and having faith in His goodness. Most importantly, it’s a reminder that we owe everything to Him and should do our best to give ourselves in every way possible.
With this said, we can find the positive message if we reflect a little further. For God gave His only son, His son suffered willingly to save us. They did it all for the dust of the earth.
In essence, it’s the salvation of dirt. Of dust. Of worms whom God loved anyway.
That’s a pretty positive message if you ask me. No matter how low we sink, there is always hope because of Jesus if we repent and believe. Not because we deserve it, but because we are loved very deeply.
The cold hard truth is, we ARE dust. It’s understandable not to want to dwell on this- and we shouldn’t. It’s only one part of the picture. It’s part makes the story all the more amazing. The part to focus on is that we are loved. We should focus on thanking and praising God for His goodness and giving Him glory for all He is and especially for what He has done for us.
We remember this during lent because Lent is a time to refocus our spirits, and receive the grace to go to God and be cleansed of our sins in preparation for the resurrection at Easter.
Though we are dust and will return to dust, there is a resurrection and a new glorified body waiting for us at the end of our own Cavalry.
Sin in the end was the ONLY thing that kept us away from God, and Jesus opened those locked doors for us to walk through. Provided we “repent and believe” in Him. We ARE nothing on our own. We have EVERYTHING through Jesus’s gift to us.
Yes we are dust, but we are loved perfectly anyway, as if we were sons and daughters of a high king – which we all are.