Ashes of Today

Debris of the Earthquake Tsunami that hit Northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011

Ash Wednesday was for me, as a young student, a day to receive the ashes on the forehead, to fast, and to meditate the Passion of the Lord.  I was careful not to lose the ashes from my forehead all day.  The words of the priest, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return,” made me think of the fact that I am weak and will die one day. But the Day finished with that, I think.

What comes to my mind this year as we approach Ash Wednesday is not the soft and silky ashes made of the burnt palm branches of last year; rather the ‘Ashes’ made by the destructive forces of nature or by the wars and other forces by which we humans exclude others.  We see the houses, roads and harbors that are smashed, or we hear the cries of those who were forced to leave their land, jobs, loved ones and even their own lives. There are also the animals that cannot escape from the nuclear radiation.  The question these ‘ashes’ put before us is:  “How do you face this reality; how will you answer us?”

When on March 11, 2011 the Great Northeastern Japan Earthquake Disaster happened and more than 17000 persons died, prayers, and support in friendship were sent from all over the world.  When the airplanes were shot down by unknown forces, people of different countries responded to those in sorrow with prayers and sympathy.  But the question “Why they and not me?” still remains deeply within me. 

In the face of such realities, I want to accept myself as weak and powerless, to share with others the heartfelt pain of my limitations, to do what I can for the moment, and to stay close to those who suffer in loneliness and discrimination.  Maybe thus am I being called to live the truth that I am weak and share death with others.  I guess this is how Ash Wednesday of today calls me to return to the Lord.  I pray that the Risen Lord may continue to enkindle the fire of hope in those who await His coming. 

Misao Shimamoto rscj          


Here is the original text in Japanese:






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