Ash Wednesday is a great time to take a look at the Beatitude, “Blessed are they who mourn for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). This is another one of those beatitudes which we may think has nothing to do with us but actually it does address what is very fundamental in us, our humanness our frailty and our constant struggle to be authentic to one another. The comfort comes when we do realize that we are only human and honestly doing the best we can at any given point in time. Through the Ignatian Examen we take stock from time to time how we are doing. Places that we did OK rejoice in, those places where we need work, console ourselves with a plan to do a wee bit better. With so many distractions take up our day the examen is a great way to focus.
To mourn is to be human. To focus on it all the time is probably unhealthy. But focus we do, saying that person is better-looking or that person is more talented than I. What a waste of time and misspent energy. By focusing on the good stuff and knowing that no one is authentically better than us takes a huge burden of competition and self-mourning off our shoulders. Bit by bit we can work on it, even keeping a journal. So what of Ash Wednesday and this Beatitude? Well, the ashes put on our forehead remind us that time is short way short. And even though it comes from a curse that G-d put on the first humans, specifically Adam (Genesis 3:19) to make sure that Adam didn’t get a fat head thinking he was the top of the food chain, it reminds of our mortality. It reminded him (and us) that inspire of all the accomplishments and money we achieve or make, we will all die. So why do it? Because we can and, who knows, we may, yes may, make a difference. We may even, with our crappy talents, make this world a better place.
This idea was no more evident when yesterday I received the awful news that a young freshman boy ended his own life. Details are not important, what is important is the fact that a youngster thought his life was no longer worth living, that there was no longer any hope. (This young man had beenrecently awarded the “Most Improved” on his water polo team) Suicide is such a lonely and a somewhat selfish act. Lonely because the deed itself is done at one’s own hand, and selfish in that the individual has made themselves “terminally unique.” They think themselves so different, almost a different species, from anyone else on the face of the planet with feelings and emotions no one could possibly understand. Having been to this point in my own life, I can understand the pain that draws one to end it all and the sense of peace that exists when the final decision is made. We are blinded to those who love us who care about us who, if they knew, would never let us go through with this final terminal act. I understand all that. The ashes on our foreheads today remind us of the fragility of human life and the precious little time we have to find someone to love and to allow someone to love us.
During this lent then, renew yourself. Make contact. Allow people into your life. Risk loving. Risk loving yourself. Before too long, hopefully in your case a long long, we will be dust.