Ash Wednesday Mass last night was accompanied by the presence of a coffin – not for show; the funeral is today, and as is traditional the body had been received into the Church yesterday evening. It provide an extra sharpness to the point of the repeated intonation: remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.
Truly, Lent – and perhaps especially its opening – is not a season for the faint-hearted or for those who live removed from reality. It’s demanding; it’s confrontational. Today’s first reading at Mass (Deut 30:15-20) continues the pressure: it talks of choice, and our – my – ability to choose good or evil, life or death; and it talks too of the consequences. Not, I think as a threat, but as a natural result: align yourself to God who is good, and you will find good. Turn away from the good, and you will find the evil you choose.
Lent itself is about choice; which is perhaps why it’s relevant to choose something to give up, or something extra to do. And it’s about choosing while remembering that our span on earth is limited; we do not have forever to make up our minds. But we do have eternity to gain, by the grace of God and through the assurance of Easter.