While speaking with a great and trusted friend today, I asked him to explain the meaning and purpose of Ash Wednesday. Part of his response stuck with me throughout the day:
“It is a time recognize that we are not the ones who can do the work, but rather are the ones upon whom the work is done. We remember that we are finite and rely upon the infinite love of God for our very survival.”
When I read these words from him, my mind did not go to the concept of “you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19). Instead, I immediately thought of the frailty of human relationships. I immediately thought of the strongest relationships I have had in my life, and the difference those relationships have made in my life and in my relationship with God.
The best friends I have had are ones which have Christ in the center of them. These friendships were not always perfect, and are not always perfect. There has been anger and jealousy and temptations and a myriad of other problems. And yet by having Christ in the center of them – by believing in God’s infinite love, grace, and mercy – the ability to overcome these obstacles became not only easier, but an important necessity. With God living within the combined soul of these relationships, the desire to heal that entwined soul becomes a desired requirement.
By having Christ in the center of them – by being enveloped in God’s infinite love, grace, and mercy – these relationships are no longer finite and frail. They become infinite, immeasurable and unconditional. By this love being embraced by God’s unending grace and mercy, we are able to pray with and for each other. We are able to forgive. We are strengthened in our abilities to resist all sorts of temptations, and to seek and receive forgiveness when we are unable to resist.
By having Christ in the center of our relationships – by allowing God’s infinite love, grace, and mercy to work within us – we are able to teach and learn from one another. We are able to hear someone say “you are worthy” or “you are a beloved child of God” or “you are forgiven” and believe these words not only in that moment, but forever. The words stick (even though we may temporarily forget them or disbelieve them). The lessons stick. And we have the ability within ourselves, through God, to be able to give these same messages to others, bringing others the comfort and love and the belief in forgiveness that they need to hear and understand and have stay in their souls.
By having Christ in the center of our relationships and our lives – by the truth of God’s infinite love, grace, and mercy – we are blessed with the ability to move beyond our finite existence into one of resurrection and infinite love that surpasses “from dust you were formed and to dust you shall return.”
Thank you God for the blessing of your infinite love, and for the grace and mercy you give to me. Thank you for those whom you put in my life to teach me of your infinite blessings; and for being in the center of their souls and their teaching. Thank you for placing me in the lives of those who need to hear of your infinite blessings, and for being in the center of my soul. Thank you for the friendships which are based on your infinite love, grace and mercy – for being ever-present in the midst of these friendships. Please continue to be ever-present in all of my relationships, strengthening and blessing these relationships so we may each continue to grow.In the name of Jesus Christ, our savior and Lord – the one you sent to die and be resurrected for the forgiveness of our sins, because of your infinite love, grace, and mercy for us,Amen