Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday, 2012

Suffering is inescapable in life. From the moment we are conceived we possess a body that is fragile - susceptible to illness, disease, injury and eventually death. Indeed, birth is the first stage in the process of dying. It is unavoidable. As surely as new life begins, we know that that same life will someday end.

Today is Ash Wednesday. The ashes on our forehead remind us that, no matter our circumstances in life – rich or poor, young or old, sick or in good health – we are all destined for the grave. “You are dust and unto dust you shall return,” – these words are among those spoken as the ashen cross is traced upon our heads.

The cross is a symbol of Christ's suffering as well as our own suffering. The cross is a symbol of the common path we must tread to arrive eventually at our end. We “take up our cross” and follow Him. It is a process, a march to our graves. Between conception and death, the life we live is filled with ups and downs. All life contains suffering. All life is marked with the sign of the cross.

But we should not despair, for the cross gives us hope - not because it brings an end to suffering, but because it gives new meaning to our suffering.

Jesus did not come to end all pain and suffering. But His suffering transforms the world. When we accept the cross we seek solidarity with the lowliest and most wretched of humanity. We search out those who suffer and find spiritual companionship. We even seek ways to suffer alongside them, and add our suffering to the redemptive act of Christ on the Cross. As we look around us and see all those fellow travelers marked with their own crosses today, we see Christ walking beside us.

If there is to be meaning in our life we must not reject suffering but embrace these moments of pain as channels of grace…just as Jesus embraced the cross for the salvation of the world, if we unite our suffering to His, then we can share in His plan of salvation, and become channels of grace to the world.

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