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Saturday, March 23, 2013


by Susan Fox

Every Ash Wednesday as Lent begins we hear the words: “Remember man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return!”

The words, “REMEMBER YOU ARE DUST,” are an anecdote to pride. Sometimes we can fall into thinking we are something extraordinary, and then we remember… oh yeah, I’m dust. All those extraordinary things in my life? That’s God working through me. This is a good and dusty moment.

These words are an invitation to conversion for the sinner.  I remember meeting a young man who had no concern for the consequences of his actions, so I pointed to the daisies planted in his front yard, and asked him the serious question, “Where will you be when your toes are pushing up those daisies? Who will be your companions?” Will you hang with the devil and his dominions for all eternity in the barbeque pit? Or will you play with God and his angels and his saints. People don’t think that the decisions they make now will have incredible consequences for themselves for a very, very long and unending time. And the discomfort of living with the devil forever is just one of the drawbacks.

THEN there is a certain freedom in being dust, light as a feather, knowing that your life someday will be somewhere else, not tied to this earth, your current anxieties or responsibilities. Instead, we will be embraced in the arms of God for all eternity. For heaven is not a place but a state of being. It’s like that moment in Dante’s Divine Comedy when having ascended to heaven he looks back at that  “dusty little threshing ground that makes us so mad for our sins,” i.e. the earth. He feels so distant and uninvolved in the things that formerly attracted him.

We all have sin, and anxiety. We all have fallen short of the Glory of God, but these things will be unimportant from the perspective of eternity as long as my basic choice is for God – and more importantly, I trust in His mercy. This is a moment of dust-hood.

Doctor of the Church: St. Theresa of Lisieux
We don’t have to go to Purgatory. A famous doctor of the Church teaches that God does not want us there. It’s a big waste of time. But yes, I’ve heard all the stories of the seemingly holy people that go there until the end of time. Their problem is that they expected to go there, or they relied on the merits of their own lives. St. Theresa of Lisieux taught that you CAN avoid Purgatory by trusting in Jesus to purify yourself and give you all the graces necessary for salvation before your death. This is not presumptuous. You also need to work diligently with God’s grace to change your life. But your efforts will never be perfect. Only Jesus can effect the change in our hearts.

One of St. Theresa’s fellow sisters challenged her on this idea, and then died later the same year. Sr. Feodora appeared to St. Theresa after her death with a sad look on her face, seeming to say, “You were right!” But when people lack trust, and end up in Purgatory, then the Church Militant goes into action and prays for the soul who failed to trust Jesus. Thank God for the Body of Christ. Because of our charity, the Church Suffering is freed from Purgatory.

St. Theresa also said that some great souls go to Purgatory because they rely on the merits of their own lives, and so they are judged on the merits of their actions. These souls may actually have lived great lives, but no one’s actions are perfect! The best thing to do is to consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary and place ALL the merits of your life in her hands. When you arrive at the doorstep of eternity shivering and naked, the Blessed Virgin Mary will cover you with her cloak -- the merits of her own life. And you’ll be a shoo-in for heaven.  

In 2010, I faced the possibility I would die. My arteries were 90 percent clogged. I had to have heart surgery. At the time, I said to the Lord, “If I die now, my life is a waste because I have so much unfinished, and I’ve done nothing.” He gave me the same answer, St. Faustina reported in her diary: Jesus told her, “Do not fear; I Myself will make up for everything that is lacking in you.”

Ah! Dust-hood! After those words, I went peacefully into heart surgery, knowing that whatever I haven’t done, Jesus would accomplish for me. It wasn’t a bad experience.

Jesus identified St. Faustina Kowalska 
as the "Secretary of My Divine Mercy." 
She wrote a diary explaining her 
experiences with Jesus, Divine Mercy
One nun after regularly going to confession still felt she was not forgiven. It was a great suffering to her. She finally went to St. Faustina. Her faith in the holiness of Sr. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) was so great that she felt she had a direct line with Jesus. So she said with great trust and humility, “I know sister if you tell me Jesus has forgiven me, it will be true.”

Actually, she was availing herself of the Communion of Saints, and the act bore good fruit for her. For Jesus told St. Faustina: “Tell her that her disbelief wounds My Heart more than the sins she committed.” Faustina’s fellow sister received this message with great joy, and she began to cry like a child. Glorious Day! She achieved dust-hood! May we all be so blessed.

But imagine you are that young man I met near the daisy bed, secure in your youth, and neither fearing death nor sin. And you make no preparation for the next life. I have been speaking lately to people in this state of being, and their lives bear a lot of unnecessary suffering.

To even identify what is a sin is like attacking them personally. “Judge not lest ye be judged!” they thunder back. They cannot distinguish what they do and who are they in relation to God. They are so vested in their sins, they think I do not love them if I can say, “This action is wrong.” It is to the point that they cannot recognize right and a wrong. I keep telling them that if I cannot make judgments about whether some action is right or wrong, I cannot work to stop myself from sinning because I will not know what is sin!

Judge Roy Moore's 10 Commandments Monument
 removed from an Alabama courthouse
Actually, being ignorant of sin is a punishment from God. When Moses brought the 10 Commandments down from Mt Sinai, he found the Israelites worshipping a golden calf and he threw the 10 Commandments to the ground and broke the stone tablets. The punishment for their idolatry was to leave them in ignorance of their sins and have the law taken from them.

Sadly, God has removed the 10 Commandments from the United States. Judge Roy Moore, Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, fought and lost a federal court order requiring a 10 Commandments monument to be removed from the state judicial building. They were removed. That is a very bad sign, and now we find so many Americans totally ignorant of right and wrong.

I remember my husband discussing condoms with a co-worker. Larry, finding out the co-worker was using this method of birth control with his wife, looked the man in the eye and said, “George, that’s what you do with prostitutes not your beloved wife.”

The man was shocked.

Another man whined that his wife left him after he suggested they get an abortion. Larry said, “When you suggested the abortion (even though he changed his mind later) you were saying she, and the fruit of your relationship, the child, was dead to you.” The wife was angry and had the abortion anyway.

That man was shocked.

I once translated the letter from the first bishop of Seattle, Bishop A.M. Blanchet, and a white French Canadian. He had witnessed the Indians whopping and hollering, killing "easily and with gaiety of heart" the white settlers in Eastern Washington.
Rev. A.M. Blanchet in
1856, later the first bishop
of the Diocese of Nisqually
-- which became the dioceses of
Seattle and Spokane.

It was the mid-1800s, and despite the evidence of brutal murders, he never lost faith in the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest "because it cannot be doubted that when the Indians will understand the seriousness of the crime of homicide, they will avoid committing it," he wrote in his journals.

He merely felt he had a job to do as a missionary: "As they learn to know God - that will inspire their horror of all these terrible crimes that they commit now so easily."

We are well past the new millennium, and I believe now that unlike Rome, which was conquered by barbarians, we have devolved to become the barbarians, barbarians with technology allowing us to do much more brutal murders than the Indians ever committed.

Technology gives us the appearance of civilization. But look what we do with it! 54 million Americans murdered since 1973. Scientists are making human animal hybrids in test tubes! Rancid pornography on the television and the Internet. All of this is a sign that we have lost a sense of sin. We do not know any more how to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil.

In fact, evil often parades as good in our culture. And so I wondered how do I bring a perspective of dust-hood, a knowledge of sin to the people I meet in person and online?

I think Bishop Blanchet answered the question for us. He met the barbarians, and made them Christian, and they stopped the sin of murder.

"As they learn to know God - that will inspire their horror of all these terrible crimes that they commit now so easily," he said.

We must learn to tell people about God, about His love for us, and His mercy. We must tell them that an all Good and Loving God sent His only Son into the world to suffer and die for our sins. And dear God, if there is no sin -- as many believe today -- then His Life and Death was a waste.

Let us reject that perspective. There is sin. We all sin. There is a merciful God, and He does the work for us to help us overcome our sins. And then one day He will bring us to Himself in one  great embrace of love. Yipee! Dust-hood!

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