For Christians, today, Ash Wednesday, is about more than repentance and reflection. It's about death.
It is a grim reminder that one day -- maybe today, maybe 30 years from today -- we will die because we are not immortal. Only God is immortal. Indeed, the Christian approach to death has to do with the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, not the old Greek idea of the immortal soul. Nothing about us, including our souls, is immortal in itself. (Though many Christians get this point of theology wrong.)
If we are to have an afterlife in relationship with God, that is God's choice.
So today, the beginning of Lent, is not the kind of happy holiday that Valentine's Day will be for so many tomorrow. Rather, it's a day of reckoning.
So to start this Lenten season I want to point you again to a book I reviewed here, The Amateur's Guide to Death and Dying, by Richard Wagner.
Here's an excerpt: "Living a good death begins the moment we accept our mortality as part of who we are. We've had to integrate other aspects of who we are into our daily lives -- our gender, racial background and cultural heritage, to name a few. Why not our mortality?"
Why not, indeed. For remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. None of that negates the Christian belief in resurrection. But for there to be any resurrection, there must be death -- which, without resurrection, is total and the final word.
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NO SCIENCE-RELIGION CONFLICT?
If you remember that you are dust you might eventually ask how old that dust is. Most Americans would say it's millions and millions of years old, though some insist it's only a few thousand years old. So is there a major conflict between science and religion? A new survey suggests the answer is no. It's quite possible to be a committed person of faith and to trust that science is coming up with believable answers to the questions it can and should reasonably tackle.