One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him. The scientist walked up to God and said, “God, we’ve decided that we no longer need you. We’re to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don’t you just go on and get lost?” God listened very patiently and kindly to the man. After the scientist was done talking, God said, “Very well, how about this? Let’s say we have a man-making contest.” To which the scientist replied, “Okay, great!” But, God added, “Now, we’re going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam.” The scientist said, “Sure, no problem” and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt. God looked at him and said, “No, no, no. You go get your own dirt.”
Hi everyone here’s my homily for ASH WEDNESDAY February 26, 2020. Thanks so much for stopping by to read this and even more for sharing it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everywhere else people share social media posts and your feedback and comments! For the audio version you can get them at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. Thanks again – I hope you and yours experience all of God’s blessings today and always! In Christ – Father Jim
Terrible I know. It’s basically a priest edition of a dad joke. I don’t remember who told me that or where I heard it, I’m sure I rolled my eyes at it like many of you are doing right now… but it came to mind in reflecting on what we’re gathered here for today. On the surface it seems such a weird custom that we as Catholics have done on this day for centuries to mark this season of Lent – putting ashes – putting this “dirt” on our heads. It’s a custom that comes from the Old Testament. The Jewish people when they recognized how far off they had strayed from God, as a sign of penance would put ashes on their heads to visibly demonstrate how badly they felt. The Church adopted the custom. Actually in a sense this was how the Catholic Church was the first institution to embrace recycling: We take the Palm branches that were given out last Palm Sunday and burn them up to make these ashes and use them today.
It seems appropriate in one sense – the dirty ashes look well – like dirty ashes on our heads. In our selfie-focus, image-obsessed word it’s a bit unnerving and even a bit embarrassing as we walk around with it and have people say “What’s that?” or “Bruh – you got some dirt on your head…” One of the reasons I think people feel comfortable coming to Mass today more than many others is because that can reflect how we sometimes feel on the inside. If I think about areas in my life that things aren’t going right…. If I focus on my failures my setbacks… If I let those voices of comparison where I look at someone else and think they’re so much better, so much better looking or more talented or more blessed or holier… and allow that to undermine all the gifts and talents and blessings that I have…If I do an examination of conscience and reflect on my sins – I can see there are areas of my life that are a mess – that the dirt, the ashes can reflect how I feel… maybe not just today but many other days…
But that’s when it’s good to remember that the Ashes, the Dirt are our origins – but not our destiny. That is the Good News of today. That those Ashes, that dirt as the stupid joke pointed out is in fact God’s. What’s not a joke is that He did in the miraculous plan of creation intend to take a speck of that dirt and make you from it. That was our origins, our beginnings – and we need to remember that and have a sense of awe and thanks to God just out of sheer love fashioned and created us out of ashen dirt.
But that’s not who we are now and that’s not our destiny. Even if at death the physical body will resemble these very ashes. Thats the even greater good news today – the cross that is traced on our heads is our hope. That cross says you are so much more than ash. That cross say you are known. That cross says you are noticed. That cross says you belong as one of God the Father’s beloved Sons and Daughters. That cross says God cares about you and has a plan for you – a plan for you to experience fullness of life here and now and in the life to come and a plan that will be a blessing to the world around us. That cross says you are loved.
We dare to come forward and receive these ugly signs because of those truths. The same God who breathed his breath of life into those ashes to create every single person walking on this blessed earth – wants to breath new life into each and everyone of us. Jesus tells us that despite how long it’s been since someone has acknowledged him, despite whatever mess our lives might be, even if we’ve been influenced by those lies telling us that our identity is based on our wants, our desires, that our value is determined by what we can produce – God never ceases to look at us, as his beloved sons and daughters. We are – each and every one of us – miracles that he created out of dust.
May that truly good news sink in… and compel us to hear the call of Ash Wednesday to “Repent and Believe in the Gospel” with the three ways Jesus offers us as a way to get started: Fasting, Almsgiving and Prayer. To Fast from something that I’ve told myself “I can’t live without this” – to give up something that’s taken up more time, more space in my life than I even realized and doing that for the Lord as a way of saying that God and God alone is all I can’t live without. Almsgiving which basically means to actively offer to help someone else who is in need who doesn’t have the ability to “pay us back” – whether it’s helping the poor or even going out of my way and maybe actively reaching out to a sick relative or an elderly grandparent who is alone. When we do that, we’re reversing how we can sometimes buy into the lie that love is about getting something and relearning the truth that God has shown us, most especially on the Cross – Love is about giving. And by commiting more time these next 40 days to Prayer – actively spending time with God – which is the most precious thing any of us has – time. When we make that choice to turn our hearts and minds to Him – whether it’s every Sunday at Mass or even during the week at daily Mass – or just deciding to pray in the car when I’m stuck in traffic – our loving Father is always overjoyed when we His sons and daughters call out to Him, especially when it’s just to say “No I don’t need anything – I just wanted to say I love you.”
As we are marked by these dirty, ashen crosses, may we hear God the Father calling us back to Him. Knowing that, when we do turn towards Him, He will transform the dirty ashes of our lives into the renewed, vibrant, living masterpieces He always knew we were.