We’ve come again to the Pinnacle of our Christian calendar, the Crescendo of the Show – of the Season that began nearly 40 days ago when ashes were marked on foreheads to that ancient lyric: “Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
If you go to any Broadway show or to a concert or big sports event nowadays, it’s so hard to get a good seat unless you have lots of money. Whoever coined the phrase, “The best things in life are free,” must have known places like my secret hangout. For 25 years since i settled in the awesome Hudson River Valley of New York,it has been one of my favorite places to go and just sit, pray, contemplate, and commune with Nature – with one of the hardest-to-beat views of the mountain-valley-river + sunsets combination which is uniquely ours. And all these years i have shared it, that is, i have been able to share it with my good buddy, who once upon a time picked this perfect spot to rest. And so humbly, so simply, so wonderfully he marked his spot, DUSTMAN! What a perfect name! So, although it was a husband and wife, Peter, who died in 1944 and Jennie, who passed in 1955, they decided to add no other words, no dates, so that it might as well read EVERYMAN! And their spot belong to us all, inviting us at any time to sit, to pray, to enjoy….with Peter and Jennie floating like pure clouds overhead.
It’s as if the owner of this plot wanted anyone who found it to feel perfectly welcome to share the peace – as long as they are open to that Truth of truths, the same formula that St. Francis found in his mountaintop cell above Assisi. “Remember you are dust, and to dust – today, tomorrow, who knows? but DO KNOW – you shall return.” In other words, “There is one God, and His Name is not me.”
NOW THIS ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF OUR DUSTINESS NEED NOT BE A RECIPE FOR MORBIDITY! Rather, let it be THE TICKET to the Best Seat on Earth and Life of Joyful Celebration with all of the other creatures and plants, who do not bother with fancy clothes or jewelry. We are BEAUTIFUL ENOUGH. My buddy behind this stone (or under it) tells me on every visit WE ARE MAGICAL, MYSTICAL, FABULOUS, SPARKLY, SACRED, BEJEWELED DUST. Dustman sees all!!!!! His view is infinitely grander than even mine. (An after-thought: Funny, but just after i posted this blog, my wife came home with the story of a stranger who had just bought her and others their coffees at our local cafe. His reason: everyone needs a “sparkle” every now and then!) The “sparkle” in our earthly dust, then, is but a glimpse of what will shine forth from us there.
AGAIN this dusty old truth should never spell gloom – just as i have blogged over and over throughout this Lent. This constant theme of Pope Francis (who, i just read, was voted the most popular, beloved person on the planet), this CONSTANT THEME being the primary reason: “IF FAITH IS NOT A JOY, then Faith is not real!!!” There has been a nice sign outside my Church throughout these forty days:
that is missing something CRITICAL. It lists the ingredients of a good Lent, but it leaves out the ALL-IMPORTANT WORD, the One that binds them all together into a Beautiful Bouquet for God, JOY!!!
If there is not JOY, i love to say, then we run the risk of becoming Praying Mantises, those big bugs that appear so nice and holy, kneeling in prayer, when their prayer is only: “Lord, give me some nice juicy little bug to KILL AND EAT; or 5 of them would be better!”
Whoever named them spelled it wrong – should be Preying Mantis. But aren’t we often just as guilty in our prayers? How often my penance is more a penance of those around me, lifeless, loveless, joyless rituals that end in my being judgmental or gossipy, KILLING and devouring others’ good names or reputations, all under the disguise of holiness.
That is not what the Dustman teaches. He is humility, he is Gratitude, he is JOY! Thank you, my most quiet companion.
HAPPY END OF LENT TO ALL OF YOU. HAPPY HIGHEST HOLY DAYS> EASTER ALLELUIAS and JOYS ETERNAL – from the Dustmen on the Hudson Hill!
The Mystery of a Picture such as this, if the onlooker does not know, is whether it is a Sunrise or a Sunset, and that is the Mystery of these Holiest Days, the Ends are the Beginnings, Death is Life!!! FOREVER.