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Ash Wednesday: grateful for ash

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Why am I grateful for ash today? It isn't something for which I usually feel gratitude.
Ash sometimes feels like a nuisance. I think of ash in a fireplace that has to be cleared out. Or ash carelessly dropped from a cigarette.
Ash sometimes makes me feel sad. I think of the ash that was the last mortal remains of my parents and grandparents.
Ash is certainly not something I usually use to decorate my body. I have never repented or grieved in sackcloth and ashes in the literal way I read about in the Hebrew scriptures.
So, why today will I welcome an imposition of ash on my forehead, accompanied by the words, 'Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return'?It's hardly designed to cheer anyone up on a cloudy and wet Wednesday morning. Why is it good to be told you are going to die, that you are not immortal? Because I know it is true, but need to be jolted into facing up to that truth from time to time.
For Christians, today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a seas…