“Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return!” With these words, accompanied by the sign of ashes marked upon the forehead in the shape of the cross, we begin the holy season of Lent. Inspired by God’s punishment of Adam’s sin, these words are a reminder of death, a prophecy of our certain future. Allow me to play the prophet, in the future you will die! Lent is a time to get ready.
As a newly ordained priest, my first time administering the anointing of the sick reminded me of Ash Wednesday. “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit.” With these words, accompanied by the sacramental sign of oil marked upon the forehead in the shape of the cross, we pray for healing. Ash and oil, death and life - the parallels here are profound.
We can be sick physically and spiritually, in body and in soul. When we heal from bodily infirmity we are only postponing the inevitable, gaining a little more time. I don’t mean this in a cynical sense. Every person Jesus healed did get sick again. Eventually they all would have died. Eventually, even the resuscitated Lazarus would have died again (second time’s a charm). Yet when we heal from spiritual infirmity the effects remain.
Lent is a period of time when we prepare for Easter. The Resurrection of Jesus has changed everything, including bodily death! For those who die while in God’s good graces, death will be the ultimate healing. Only in the fullness of life in heaven will there be no more death, sickness, sorrow, pain or tears (Isaiah 25).
Let Lent be life in miniature. If Lent is a period of time when we prepare for Easter, see life as a period of time when we prepare for death, that moment when we will encounter Him who has conquered death and transformed it into the fullness of healing.
+ Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
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