Humility comes from the Latin word “humus,” which means “ground.” Today we recognize that we are one with the ground from which we are made – we remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return.
Far from being yet one more mask that we wear, the ashes placed on our foreheads unmask us. They reveal that which we most truly are – finite, limited creatures of God. All the subtle or not-so-subtle jockeying for our place in the world, all the things that have enslaved us, all the norms of our society that we have made into false gods, all the ways we separate ourselves from the rest of creation – all of this falls away. We are no better and no worse than others. We are all simply creatures of God.
Such humility is the only hope for the world in which we live – our hope for peace, for justice, for love. Because only when we take off the masks and relinquish with them our own priorities, our own plans for the world, our own need to prove ourselves – only then can we recognize our oneness with the rest of creation, only then can we give ourselves to something larger than ourselves.
This is our sacred work of Lent – to peel away the layers of masks that have separated us from God and one another so that we can align ourselves with God’s dream for the world. In this holy work we will find our truest selves, our freedom, our salvation – the blessing of a God who is abounding in steadfast love. Who knew a smudge of ashes could hold that much grace?
- Rev. Teri Daily, from a sermon delivered on Ash Wednesday, 2020. at All Saints Episcopal Church, Russellville, Arkansas