"Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return."
Each year we begin the Season of Lent being reminded of who and what we are.
We are the descendants of Adam whom God formed from the dust of the earth. (Genesis 2:7) From humus, the rich and fertile soil used for growing, God fashioned a human and breathed into his lungs, filling him with the spark of divine life - a soul. He gave Adam a garden filled with everything he would ever need.
We are the children of Eve whom God created to share the garden with Adam, but whose pride left her vulnerable to deception and lies. She, too, had everything she could ever need, yet she couldn't resist the temptation to believe that there was still more that God was keeping from her, and she wanted it.
Sin and Death
They gambled and lost it all and by doing so brought sin and death into the world. Their pride separated them from God. There was no returning to the garden, yet in his great love and mercy God left humanity a way find their way back to him, the spark of his divine life and the free will to choose to be with him.
A Better Deal
Even after they turned from him, God still wanted his cherished creation to be with him forever, but instead of returning to the garden, he offered them a better deal - a place in his own dwelling to live as his children. Getting there wouldn't be easy. They still had to deal with the consequences of their sin; suffering, death and returning to dust.
God's end of the bargain was to offer his Son, Jesus, to be their champion. But in order to defeat sin and death he would become one of us - human. In Jesus, the God-made-man would assume the mantle of humility to know hunger, thirst, sorrow, pain and suffering as all of the children of Adam and Eve have endured since the garden was forfeited. Jesus had to die, but not become dust. Before the earth could claim him He would rise and show us that we, too, will one day rise and go to the Father.
Although we have the gift of Baptism to remove the original stain of the sin of Adam and Eve, we still struggle throughout our lives with temptation and pride. We still know hunger and thirst and pain and suffering. We still die and return to dust. But because of Jesus, our earthly existence is only a pilgrimage that we take to the journey's final destination of eternal life.
The Pilgrimage of Lent
The Season of Lent opens with a reminder that the first step of the journey back to God begins with humility - seeing ourselves as we are. We humbly acknowledge our faults, resolve to turn from sin and to do good. We accept the cross of ash on our foreheads, pick up our own crosses, and follow Jesus to our final destination.
Like a pilgrimage, the Lenten journey is a time of self-discovery and re-discovery as we wind our way through the desert to the Passion. And as we go we listen once again to the familiar stories of faith and our salvation and try to re-discover our own faith story as we walk with each other and Christ to Jerusalem. There, on Calvary, we will not only see ourselves as we are, but what we will be.