Homily of Fr. Joey Cruz, S.J. for Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday Homily of Fr. Joey Cruz, S.J. at the Church of the Gesu
Do you or someone you know have among your things denims that have small tears in them perhaps at the knee signifying cool casualness?
During the time of Jesus, those who wanted to manifest sorrow for their sin tore their clothes or covered their bodies with ash.
We will soon approach the sanctuary to have ash marked on our forehead, with the words said: “Remember you are dust and unto dust you will return.”
The ash marking will be slight and merely suggestive of bodies being covered with ash a la taong grasa, but expect nonetheless our hearts awakened anew and stoked into flame in love of God.
Ash on our forehead makes us own up to our humanity and to our ability to disfigure ourselves.
Consider the lies we make, the little and big thievery we engage in, the disconnect that exists between what we do and the plight of the many.
Consider the habit of being preoccupied with self, the excesses we commit due to a sense of emptiness, the addictions that we are so adept at denying even to ourselves.
Consider the violence at home in word and deed and how we reserve our choicest arsenal of pain for members of the household.
Ash — of little weight, blown away, insignificant — is an image of human lives fragile, broken, drifting in the wind, of no obvious value, but always and without fail infused with God’s life, fallen yes but redeemed, hurting perhaps but summoned always to draw strength from God’s life-giving love.
The real revelation then is that ash though we are, we are brought to life and sustained by God’s life-giving love; that insignificant though we may seem, we carry God’s life within us. We are called to great things. We are God’s daughters and sons.
Ash Wednesday is about our humanity; but more importantly still, it is about God’s magnanimity. It speaks about God seeking us, about Him pursuing us even when we drift away, about Him not giving up on us.
The earthquake in Haiti might remind us of another that took place in Armenia some years ago.
In the muddled chaos, a distressed father ran through the winding streets leading to the school where his son had gone earlier that morning. The man could not stop thinking about the promise he gave his son many times. “No matter what happens, Armand,” he would say, “I’ll always be there for you.” But where the school had once stood, nothing remained except for a large heap of debris. With bare hands, he started digging, pulling up brick and wood where his son’s classroom had been. A bystander, in an effort at solidarity, said: “You can stop now, all the children must be dead.” But the man, with nothing but his son in mind, kept digging and digging, for hours and hours. 12 hours went by….. 18 hours….. 24 hours….. 36 hours….. and finally into the 38th hour he heard a muffled groan from under a piece of wallboard. Pulling it back, he called out, “Armand!” and from the darkness came a slight, shaking voice, “Papa?” 14 of the 33 students survived. Young Armand turned to his friends and said, “See, I told you my father will not forget us.”
The ash on our forehead marks us as God?s daughters and sons whom he loves and will never abandon.
With the words then, “you are dust,” we are told everything we are: nothingness filled with eternity; death teaming with life; dust invigorated with God’s life for always.(Rahner)
At this mass, even as we acknowledge who we are, let us declare whose we are.
Blessings on you all this Lent.
Monk’s Hobbit: When I heard the story of the boy and his father, I tried not to cry.