This is an interesting week with great fanfare as we celebrated the Superbowl, Super-Tuesday and Mardi-Gras. Then as the confetti lay on the streets of New York and New Orleans, we came to Ash Wednesday. Granted the NFL and our political parties probably did not consult the liturgical calendar when selecting these dates, but I found the transition this week interesting.
On Sunday, Eli Manning overcame the media’s yearlong criticism to become a Superbowl MVP. On Tuesday, John McCann, whom many pundits had written off months ago, became the Republican front-runner. While on the Democratic side, there is a tight battle between two candidates, a female and an African-American, who years ago would never have been seriously considered for the Presidency. Even Tuesday evening, on the streets of New Orleans, the news cameras captured a city still trying to recover from Katrina. All of these events this week symbolize the human spirit’s ability to rise up, overcome challenges and succeed.
Then, however, our calendar came to Ash Wednesday: a liturgical time of reflection, humility, and confession. It is strange to call this day a celebration, because it is when the church reminds herself that human life is frail, imperfect and transitory. In this time of humility, we acknowledge that while our life is but ashes and dust, God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of all things. God took dirt and breathed life into in order that we may live.
So, who are we? Do our performances on the football field—or the office, or as a parent—define our identity? Do the results of exit polls—or friend’s opinions, or our own self-image—define us? Or, is our identity rooted in the humble acknowledgment that we are but dust and ashes; that God is the giver of life who has called us to worship, serve and share his love with everyone that we come into contact with.