Beloved Specks of Dust

The other day I was reading a Buzzfeed article with images that illustrate the Earth’s place in the the universe. When compared to the size of the sun, our planet looks like a little rock. When compared to the size of the largest star in the Milky Way, the sun looks like a little rock. Zooming out even further, the largest star becomes a obscure dot. As the Milky Way and the other galaxies get progressively smaller until the known universe is mapped out (thanks to the Hubble Telescope), the Earth seems hopelessly insignificant. I have to admit that I was initially scandalized and scared out of my wits by seeing these images. How is it that God is mindful of us? How can we humans understand our place in the universe without feeling totally lost? We’re all smaller than specks of dust–practically nothing at all.

The fact of the matter is that we really are dust and ashes, something that Ash Wednesday  consistently reminds us of. “Remember that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.” It seems to me that the immensity of the cosmos serves to back this up. Just as we cannot fully comprehend the universe, we cannot fully comprehend the Creator of it. We are finite beings after all, and God is infinite. We shouldn’t expect to take it all in. I think that God wants us to know how small we really are in the grand design of things so that we might learn to be dependent on him and his providence. The earth being small compared to the rest of the universe is exactly in keeping with the ways of God–He chooses the weak and makes it/them strong: “It was not because you are more numerous than all the peoples that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you; for you are really the smallest of all peoples. It was because the Lord loved you…” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8).

And that brings me back to my experience in Lourdes (last week was the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes). Thats where I began to learn that God is ever mindful of me, as he was with St. Bernadette, even though it might be difficult to perceive it at times. He loves me in my weakness and littleness. Just because the universe is so vast doesn’t mean that he somehow loses track of us or that we’re invisible to him. It is true that we are nothing but dust blowing in the wind–but God chooses to make something out of nothing. We were loved into existence. Lent is the opportunity to encounter this love and to be mindful of him by emptying ourselves of self love. Lent is for ramping up what Christians should be doing anyway, the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are about going out of ourselves to love God and neighbor–I think especially of the victims of ISIS at this time. Life was breathed into dust for a reason–to be loved and to love…

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