You are dust and to dust, you shall return.
Each time I hear this phrase at Ash Wednesday, I think of a little prayer that was given to me by a sister a while ago. It was created by St. Jeanne Jugan, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, as a member of the Third Order of the Admirable Mother.
My Lord Jesus Christ
I am nothing,
I can do nothing.
I have nothing but sin.
I am a useless servant, by my nature a child of wrath.
The last of all creatures and the first of sinners.
To me therefore shame and confusion
and to You alone honor and glory forever and ever.
Without some reflection, Lent can start out by me feeling pretty worthless. While it is important that we are reminded of our lowliness from time to time, sometimes I dwell too much on my dustiness. As Lent progresses and I start to fail at my resolutions, it seems that I just live up to the words spoken at the beginning of the season. What are we supposed to do with the reminder that we are undeserving and contemptible? How do we make the correlation between the nothingness of ourselves and Christ, on the cross? We must own our dustiness and discover how we are precious at the same time.
Our Creator is wise because in many cases where construction or growth is involved, the dirt is a good place to start. Though we are simple, our gift of free will allows us to sin. Our bodies age and decay, merely going back into the ground. As is the trend with God, the lowest material was chosen. He then allowed us to retain His image. The result was a body and a soul that held so much potential but in so much need of guidance and aid.
We are precious because of our capacity to so desperately need God and to reflect His image at the same time. We belong to God in every way, and nothing in this universe harmonizes as much as a soul and its Creator. He rejoices when we cry, “Lord, I need you so much. I have so little understanding and ability”. It is an intimate moment when we recognize Christ as our perfect home. We were made to intensely desire Him. Lent is a time to rediscover our worth by forgetting false hopes and embracing our emptiness. If we know we are barren, Christ can enkindle His light and grace in us so that we can reflect Him as our souls were fashioned to.
Christ even became empty in every sense of the word just so we would have a blatant example to follow. What if we did simple things to gradually join Him at His crucifixion? If we echo the cross, will we not echo pricelessness? We will never be alone because He did it first. He waits for us every hour of every day, especially when His sacrifice is magnified each time at Mass.
So for Lent maybe we can simply make a little list of ways to crucify ourselves with Jesus. That imagery may be difficult to picture, but in the true meaning of the phrase, we can drain ourselves of pride, close our eyes to the attention of the world, or understand the pain of others. When we fail, we can be happier still because it will give us another opportunity to tell Christ how much we thirst for Him, as He does for us.
If you need a little help with a crucifixion list, here’s one I put together.