I have held the last of what remains of an earthly life in my hands, whole people now only ashes, years of living reduced to fine rubble, relationships, work, dreams packaged in a plastic bag to be scattered, buried, or put in a concrete square or ornate urn. Time after time, the wind has blown or I have brushed my hand against my side leaving a trace of the remains on my [clothes]. It used to bother me….[but eventually] I came to welcome… the mark of the communion of saints clinging to me….Jill Duffield
A Word of Hope
I couldn’t let go of her then, so touching her ashes felt urgent, holding a physical remnant of her life in the palm of my hands. The grittiness of the ashes surprised me. Had I expected silken beach sands? And the small chunks of bone. Was that what her strong, athletic body had been reduced to? In the early days, I would return to the ritual of holding her in this way and then let the ashes sift through my fingers. Holding and letting go.
And what will we hold onto and relinquish in this pandemic Lent? What ashes will cling to us that might become treasured remnants?
With the promises of the national vaccination program kindled, many have already begun leaping forward to a life of reunions, hugs, live concerts and theater, travel—and in-person church. And with that promise the heart’s hope is lifted. But Lent asks us to put the brakes on—to travel the long and often lonely road with Jesus to the cross.
A part of me is digging in her heels about giving up anything for Lent—when we have already said goodbye to so many and relinquished so much. And, as Fr. Richard Rohr asserts, “The ego prefers just about anything to falling, or changing, or dying. The ego is that part of you that loves the status quo—even when it is not working.”
But each year we must come again to trust the power of the pattern of dying and resurrection which recurs over and over in our lives. Jesus went before us to teach us the way, to teach the path of emptying, surrender, dying.
Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio affirms:
Christianity can help us realize that death and resurrection are part of the evolutionary path toward wholeness, letting go of isolated existence for the sake of deeper union. Something dies but something new is born—which is why the chaos of our times is, in a strange way, a sign of hope; something new is being born within.
Universal Christ, teach us your way once again, that it is in dying that we are born to new life. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon