I suppose it is fitting in some rights that these two church observances are tied together this year. Love and fidelity are marked as much by life and death as anything else. Still, the liturgical phrases ‘til death do us part and remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return have more in common than the services that surround them. While a joyous wedding celebration seems quite different than the somber commemoration into Lenten fasting that we do on Ash Wednesday, expressions of our shared mortality are common to both. We do not pretend at either service that we can somehow escape the certain fate that awaits us all. Instead, we lean into the truth that our lives are indeed limited so we should fill them with what really matters - love.
In the end, love does even more than give our lives meaning and purpose – it obliterates the sway that death has over us. Death reigns for a moment, but love wins out for an eternity. Many of us know all too well the certainty of our finitude in this life, but I also pray that we know the power of a love that does not fail, even when our lives give out. This is the love that is proclaimed from our gospels when John declares, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is the love that the Apostle Paul wrote about in his first letter to the Corinthians when he declared “now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Love is the greatest virtue that we can embody in our lives, and we are reassured that God loves us infinitely in return. This love was proven in the very life and death of the Son of God himself, Jesus Christ, as he also promised, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Jesus faced his own death as the greatest example of love ever known in our world – returning to dust to redeem us from it.
Love does indeed abide, even though we remain the very dust to which we will return. As we remember that we are this humble bit of dirt, may we never forget that God is the love that will never fail to make us whole.