On every Ash Wednesday I participate in an ancient ritual where a priest will draw a cross on my forehead.
He says, “remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.” How could I be dust? I don’t want to be dust. Didn’t God make me good and make my body good? So, why am I destined for destruction? Annihilation?
I want to be so much and to have it all.
Having things is good right? Then I can do good works and I can give and help people, right? But, wait. In the gospel of Mark the rich man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. The rich young man tells him he has kept the commandments, and has followed the law. “Jesus, look what I have done. Look at my accomplishments.” But, Jesus told him he lacked one thing.
What did he lack?
It seemed like he had it all. And that was the problem. My heart breaks when I read the end of their encounter. He leaves Jesus in sorrow. Lord, don’t let me leave you in sorrow.
“In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works,” says St. Therese in her autobiography.
The rich man in Mark needed to come to the Lord with empty hands. He needed to remember that he was dust. Instead he carried his accomplishments and his gathered goods with him to present to the Lord, and left sorrowful. If only the rich man had known what a little 19th century French nun knew, that the Lord does not want our goods and achievements. He wants us. He wants our hearts.
When I go to the Lord I want to stand before him empty handed.
I will have no degrees, or achievements, papers, blog posts, adventures, nothing for Him to count. I will not say “this is mine! Look what I did!” Instead, I am dust, from where I came, and all that I have done is now dust as well. I will stand before Him, and the dust of my life will have slipped through my fingers and blown away with the breeze. All I am He made out of dust. And I will return to that dust in the ground and wait to be made complete by Him and with Him forever.