REMEMBER THAT UNTO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN


Today we are seeing people dying in the hundred thousand from COVID-19.  Just as we are celebrating that vaccines are created by several pharmaceutical companies, along come variations and mutations of the original virus. There are still areas in the United States and countries with fewer resources where the vaccine has not reached and there is no set date for its arrival.

In the United States millions of people are living in arctic conditions, thousands without electricity.  No electricity means no heating.  Already, people have died from complications caused by frigid temperatures.  People are leaving their homes to shelter in facilities that have electricity, such as enclosed stadiums.  Let us not forget the thousands of people who are stranded in airports because the weather has caused more than 3,000 flight cancellations and hundreds of delays.  Driving home is not always possible.  The safest place to protect oneself and one’s family is the airport.

Around the world, people die from hunger, violence, wars, and natural disasters.  The point is that we are probably more aware of death today than we were twenty years ago.  Death is knocking at doors that are too close to home for comfort.

Ash Wednesday, being the first day of Lent in the Christian world, calls us to forty days of reflection and sacrifice.  The number 40 is not random.  We remember Noah in the ark for 40 days, Jewish slaves fleeing Egypt through the desert for 40 years. Christ retreated into the desert for 40 days. Finally, the risen Lord remained 40 days with His apostles before His Ascension.  Forty were periods of suffering, atonement, penance, and the journey to glory.

With the number of deaths around us, the Church invites us to remember that Christ carried the cross up Mount Calvary.  On the pinnacle of Mount Calvary, He died and redeemed all of humanity.  Redemption is not to be mistaken with forgiveness.  Redemption is a moment in time that makes forgiveness possible for all who are willing to carry the cross.

For some people, the cross may be living through COVID-19 patiently, trusting that God will do what is best for our salvation.  It is a time of suffering and an opportunity to place our trust in God.

The Arctic conditions that millions of people are experiencing, perhaps without electricity to heat their homes, can be offered as a cross that, if carried with faith in God and charity toward our neighbor, can be the best Lenten sacrifice.  If one does not suffer from COVID-19 or Arctic weather, we can remember to make a daily sacrifice for the benefit of those who are suffering and remember them in our daily prayer.

Lent is a time for conversion, change.  We carry our crosses with patience and trust that God knows what is best for us.  In times of crisis, we reach out to our neighbor to offer our help or to ask for help.  Sometimes, asking for help is more difficult than helping.

Why do we take up our cross during these 40 days?  At the end of his life, Christ died for all men.  Three days later he rose from the dead no more to die. “He who wishes to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me.”  Christ does not invite us to carry our cross for the sake of imitation.  He invites us to carry our cross so that we may never forget that we are not omnipotent and will leave this world on a given day and time.  Those who have carried their cross with the same love as Christ, will also rise to eternal life in Paradise.

“Was crucified, died, and was buried…On the third day, He rose again. “

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