Saturday, March 12, 2011

hope for dust

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." These words were spoken over me only a few days ago at the Ash Wednesday Mass. The night before, about an hour after I fell asleep, I had been awakened by a phone call from my Mom, telling me that my aunt was dying. I hardly slept that night. My mind spun with memories of my aunt and worry for her, her family, and my mom. It has been over a year since I last saw her. If only I had known that that would be the last time, I thought, ...then what? I didn't have an answer for how things would have been different, but I was filled with the pain of separation from my family and the knowledge of all that they must be going through that I cannot experience with them.

Two days later, the world was shaken by the news of an 8.9 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Japan followed by a tsunami and a nuclear disaster. Japan was likely more prepared for these events than any other country would have been, but the destruction and loss of human life have been terrible. Without their incredible technological achievements and their readiness for these disasters, the effects in such a densely populated country would have been much worse. Yet, with all of our technology, we still cannot control our world, or nations, or our lives. My heart goes out to the people of Japan, who will have to rebuild after having lost homes, friends, and loved ones. My heart goes out to the family of a professor in my department who was in or near Sendai during the time of the earthquake and whose whereabouts are still unknown. My heart goes out to the people who passed away in this disaster, who had little, if any time to prepare for their death.

It is these things that make my previous post difficult. What place do cancer and earthquakes have in the universe of a loving God? Yet, the story of the world and the story of the Gospel is one of life created from death. We look at past and present life on Earth and see life flourishing in surprising places, overcoming barriers and predators, multiplying into the millions of species that we see today - including us.

God has told us to "be holy as He is holy." Holy is a word that means "set apart." But set apart from what? God created us out of the dust of the Earth - from the prehistoric amino acids that He first imbued with life, over billions of years, God called us through the processes of this world to become a species that would be set apart for him - able to know Him and be in relationship with Him. For millions of years he crafted beings who would one day be able to walk with Him. Yet, we are still living in this difficult and dangerous world. He has not called all of us out of the world, but He has called us to await our final redemption with the world, until the day when we are perfectly holy - wholly set apart for God.:
For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
Romans 8

Part of that waiting means being left behind as others are called out of this world. Part of that waiting means dying a difficult death. But we know that even in these things, God is with us and has experienced them with us. He loves us as a perfect husband loves his wife, handing himself over, even to death so that she may be sanctified - set apart for Him. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." And for this reason, I have hope that my aunt is being called to be wholly set apart from this world to be with God. For this reason, I have hope that those who died in Japan were set apart from this world and entered yesterday into God's presence. We the Church on earth are betrothed to God, awaiting the Bridegroom's call to enter into full communion with Him. We do not know the day or the hour, but God is calling each one of His people home to Him. Calling them out of the world that brought them to life and into full communion with Him.
So I walk on uplands unbounded,
and know that there is hope
for that which Thou didst mold out of dust
to have consort with things eternal.
-The Dead Sea Scrolls

May our Eternal Lord, who knows that we are dust, have mercy on us all. May he bring the deceased into the never-ending joy of His presence, and may those of us still living in the Church militant, the Church betrothed, wait in hope and work in trust.

Update: My professor has returned home safely. My aunt has passed on. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

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