Today’s post is from our friend, Fr. Michael Schleupner. He shared these words during the liturgy on Ash Wednesday and they provide inspiration for us to carry through Lent. We’re so thankful to Fr. Mike for sharing his homilies with our blog audience. Were you able to attend an Ash Wednesday service? If not, did you mark the day in a special way in your home? Please share with us in the comments.

Genesis: A Living ConversationFr. Michael Schleupner, ashes

I imagine most of us know of Bill Moyers. Moyers has been an American journalist and author for over fifty years. the 1990s, he did a PBS Series and then a book entitled Genesis: A Living Conversation.

In Genesis, Bill Moyers recalls an old rabbinic story. The story goes that every morning, this faithful Jewish man would write on a piece of paper these words: “I am dust and ashes.” He would then fold the paper and place it in his pocket. Several times throughout the day, he would take the paper out of his pocket and read those words: “I am dust and ashes.”

These, you may know, are the words of Abraham in the Book of Genesis. For this man, they served as a prayerful remembrance of his need to be humble before God.

One day, this Jewish man showed the paper to his rabbi. The rabbi was moved by the man’s reverence. But, the rabbi took out a second piece of paper and wrote these words: “For my sake, the universe was created.” The rabbi then said to this man: “Take these words… and carry them too.

“Let there be a balance in your life. Realize that of yourself, before God, you are nothing – but because you are created in God’s image, out of love, you possess the greatest dignity imaginable: you are a child of God.”

A Living Conversation

So, the rabbi affirmed the words from Genesis: “I am dust and ashes.” And then, he added his own words, born from years of meditation on the Scripture: “For my sake, the universe was created.” From this comes the title of the PBS Series and the book: Genesis: A Living Conversation.

A Balance

For us, right now, Lent is to be a time for striking the balance that the rabbi encouraged. Yes, “I am dust and ashes.” And yes, “For my sake, the universe was created.”

So, when we are consumed with our own plans and desire to be in control, or when we become self-absorbed because of what we possess or have achieved, we should take out the first paper and remember: “I am dust and ashes.” This will keep us centered on Christ and growing in God’s image and likeness.

And then, when we feel down on ourselves and less than others, or when we see much darkness and no hope, let’s take out the second paper and remember: “For my sake, the universe was created.” That also will keep us centered on Christ and growing in God’s image and likeness.

Let’s allow the ashes placed on our forehead and the Eucharist that we receive help us to keep the balance proposed by that rabbi. That will help us to become what each of us already is: “the greatest dignity imaginable…a child of God.”

~Fr. Michael Schleupner

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