Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

The sniper in Virginia has everyone scared, and rightly so. Hopefully he (she?) will be caught soon. But perhaps we can turn his evil deeds into something good. A wife was killed as she loaded packages into her car with her husband. Can you imagine what that would be like? One minute you are walking with your spouse, the next minute she is gone, for no reason except for the evil actions of a sniper.

News like this gets me thinking about the utter contingency of life. All of our lives could end at any moment, and every time we walk out the door and say "goodbye" to our loved ones could be the last time we ever see them. Thinking on death is scary, but it is also salutary. If one thinks on death, all of the petty cares and worries of this life vanish. The only thing that remains then is the concern for one's soul. Rather than thinking whether a job search will succeed, one thinks whether one's salvation will be achieved. This shift of concern from self to God is a good thing.

This is why the Church gives out ashes on Ash Wednesday, so that we will be reminded that no matter how permanent our dwelling seems in this world, it is less than a breath, and could end at any moment. With this knowledge firm in our minds, we will be better able to give no thought to the cares of the flesh, and to store up treasures in heaven. The sniper attacks, evil as they are, are a reminder that we must do good, go to confession, and tell our wives, husbands, and children that we love them!

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