It is pure arrogance to presume that we are born into purity and goodness. We come bearing those gifts to the world but the world receives them not and sooner than later, we seem to be borne down by the powers of selfishness, primordial powers that are so primitive we assume they are part of our nature. I think that is an argument for another day.
The reality is that we are weakly, some more than others, and cannot bear too much reality -- as the playwright reminds us. So we succumb to dastardly deeds, some more than others. My own children still seem innocent to me -- the one who watched them day by day and saw so little to fault.
Yet all have sinned, as it is said. And today is a time of taking account. I am not pleased about calling this Ash Wednesday and I'll tell you why. It has nothing to do with the reality of acknowledgement, that from dust you have come and to dust you shall return. This is my problem:
Today is the anniversary of a day like many others during the Holocaust. A train from France arrived at KL Auschwitz. And within hours the skies filled with ash. Hundreds were gassed, killed by unnatural acts. Their ashes make our remembrance of Ash Wednesday an odd event. It feels like it should almost not belong to Christians anymore. Unless...
Unless: We are honest about this truth. That part of our sin was a terrible complicity in the death of millions. The ash-rendering of others. Too grave, too enormous, too horrible to comprehend. The church has its place in this complicity and for us to ignore this truth is to compound the problem. Do we dare to place ashes on our own foreheads, blithely, without cognizance of what we have been part of?