On Ash Wednesday I tend to reflect on our common fate. The fact that everything living is born and everything living will die. Without exception.
Or in the colorful and memorable phrases of Ecclesiastes: “I said in my heart with regard to human beings that God is testing them to show that they are but animals. For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again.” (3:18-20)
It makes me think of the older women who tearfully begged me to affirm that her beloved and faithful companion – a german shepherd – would be with her in heaven. Or of the much younger single person who asked a similar question. We do indeed share a common fate, as Solomon observed.
Lent begins with this reminder as we put the sign of our mortality on our foreheads: all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again.
But we are marked not just with dust. We are also marked with the cross. We are marked with the mortality of death and the glory of Christ. The hope of Christ’s resurrection. We are marked not only with the certainty that we will die, but also that we will live.
Jesus shares our common fate so that we might share in his. Everything. Even death itself, is made new.