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Lent - Being In Touch With Our Earthiness


Christians, over many centuries, have dedicated themselves to prayer, fasting, penance, self-denial, and almsgiving during Lent, mainly to identify ourselves with the suffering that Jesus endured in the wilderness when after his baptism, the Spirit drove him into the desert for forty days and forty nights. These spiritual practices more than renew us, they situate our minds on some of the fundamental exercises that help us get in touch with our earthiness.


On Ash Wednesday, we heard these solemn words: Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. These solemn words take us back to the creation story, where scripture reminds us that God created humanity out of the dust of the ground - earth, dirt, soil, call it what you may - for that is what we are. And in fact, there hasn’t been any contrary conclusion to suggest that we are other than what we are - dust. That is why Lent is such an important season.


During this season I am reminded of some of the thoughts of Hildegarde of Bingen:

Holy persons draw to themselves all that is earthly…

The earth is at the same time mother,

She is mother of all that is natural,

Mother of all that is human,

She is mother of all,

For contained in her

Are the seeds of all.

To be holy is to draw to ourselves that which is earthy because there is something incredibly noble about being earthy. In fact, it takes a great deal of humility to acknowledge our earthiness, and oftentimes that is what makes all the difference in our lives and those of our loved ones. The joy in being earthy is that the moment we are able to embrace that part of who we are as people of the soil, earth, or dirt, we become free.

That freedom comes from our deep knowledge of Jesus Christ. Listen to John: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” To be free indeed is to know that you can choose your own cross but that it is not by your power that you carry that cross. Pride makes you think you carry the cross by yourself. But remember, even Jesus couldn’t carry his own cross; Simone of Cyrene was compelled by the Romans to carry Jesus’ cross. More than that, Jesus relied solely on God to carry his cross and offered his life for us. To be free is to know who it is that helps you with the cross you choose-and it really doesn’t matter how big or small, heavy or light your cross is.


Here’s a story for you:

One man complained that his life is too hard for him. He came to God, told him about his troubles, and asked:

Can I choose another cross for myself?

God looked at him smiling, took him to the store of crosses, and said:

Choose…

The man came into the store, looked around, and was surprised. There is such a great variety of crosses – little, big, medium, heavy, and light.

The man walked by the store for a long time, looking for the littlest and lightest cross, and when he finally found it, he came to God and asked:

May I take this one?

Yes, you may – answered God – It is your own cross.


The interesting part of this story is that this man didn’t come to God asking how God could help him carry his cross. He wanted a new cross because he thought he is supposed to carry his cross by himself - but that isn’t and shouldn’t be the case. This is a classic example of someone who isn’t in touch with their earthiness and so hasn’t tasted the abundant life that Jesus offers.


To taste the abundant life that Christ offers is to be in touch with yourself, to be in touch with your earthiness - the dust that you are. More than that, it is to know that you do not carry your cross all by yourself. Someone - God - helps you carry your cross.

That, to me, is the one assurance that we have - in spite of our earthiness.


Manny

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