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Spiritual Reflections by Fr Roderick Salazar SVD (Philippines)

Such is our life that, beautiful as it is, it is also frank.
Even brutally so: “You want to write about mortality?
Fine. But first feel your own. Only from its depths may
you share what you think you know or have understood.”

And so it was that before Ash Wednesday – a fitting day,
I had thought, for a meditation on our finiteness –
a sudden chill forced me into hospital bed. Thankfully, not
into the same long and dark spell I had experienced before,
but deep enough to remind me I had no cause to boast that
I am “master of my fate, and captain of my soul.”

For I am not. No one truly is.
Life is a gift.
Every breath is a blessing; every heartbeat, God’s grace.

I depend on God and all the people whom He has given me:
Family and friends. Fellow SVDs. Doctors, nurses, caregivers.
Every one, big and small. Thank you, God. Thank you, all.

In sick bed, somehow crept through a favorite song from long ago.
It was the 1977 hit by rock band Kansas, which song long remained
a standard request at cocktail bars that featured folk-song bands.
With Freddie Aguilar’s Anak, Florante’s Handog,
APO’s Panalangin, Don Mclean’s America and
Rupert Holmes’s Terminal,
the night was not over till it was sung —
with its quaint acoustic guitar intro-plucking
and the electric-violin solo that followed the high-pitched,
“I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment’s
gone; all my dreams pass before my eyes – a curiosity.
DUST IN THE WIND… all we are is dust in the wind…”

Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea,
All we do crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see
Dust in the Wind, all we are is dust in the wind…”

Over many years, after hefty bar prices or live-concert tickets yielded to just radio listening for the tune, the song got its consistent honorable mention in many a Lenten homily,
the theme, after all, having been taken from
Genesis 3: 17-19 and Ecclesiastes 3:20.

The Lord God, we remember, had put the Man and the Woman in
the Garden of Eden, had told them to take for themselves any fruit
from any of the trees except those from the Tree in the middle of
the Garden.

But having yielded to the temptation by the serpent, and eaten of
the forbidden fruit, when the Lord came at the “breezy time of day”
(about four in the afternoon), for their usual friendly chat, the Man
and the Woman feared to reply to the Lord’s “Where are You?”

Thus came out the sad truth that they had disobeyed the Lord God.
As, in punishment, Adam and Eve were exiled from Eden, among the words the couple heard were those that every Ash Wednesday the Church would remind the faithful:
“By the sweat of your brow, you shall eat bread.
Until you return to the ground from which you were taken.
For you are dust and to dust you shall return.“

Ecclesiastes would later say the same. DUST IN THE WIND.

But is that really it? Is that ALL to life, OUR LIFE: DUST?

What about that thrill when I fall in love? That lovely feeling when
a baby is born? That joy I cannot explain when I accept that I am
loved, that I am forgiven, that I am special? Dust in the Wind?

For the believer, NO. That is not all we are. That is not really life.

That we sigh and cry and die, of course, these are real.
That there is sorrow and pain and darkness and disappointment.
That loves are betrayed and we hurt and fall sick, all these are true.

As true, Go assures us, is THE BEYOND in all our grief,
THE LIGHT in all our darkness,
THE LIFE beyond all death and dying.

It was hard for the world, except for a few, to believe and accept.
Which was why God in His infinite love said, “I will show you how
important you are to Me, how much I love you. I will become one
of you, suffer your own aches, even your own deaths, and I will
show you more. From My own death, I shall rise, for I am
LORD of LIFE. As I rise, so shall you all, so shall each of you.”

In 1963, as a fresh high school graduate of Liceo de Albay,
I entered Christ the King Mission Seminary in Quezon City.
I never knew that I who was born in 1947 would become
priest in 1974.

Nor did I ever imagine that when I was 36 years a priest
I would return to Christ the King Mission Seminary in 2010
when I turned 63.
Providence? Serendipity?
Go figure: 1947:1974 1963:36:63.

Among the many books that I read in those early seminary years, three stand out:
THE WORLD’S FIRST LOVE by Bishop Fulton Sheen,
and, by American diocesan priest, Leo Trese,

It is this third-mentioned that counters the fear,
lostness and darkness that the song DUST IN THE WIND,
for all its magnetism, stirs.

In the Gospel that he wrote,
Matthew puts together in Chapters 5-7
different things that Jesus in His three-year public ministry
shared with the people.

Specifically, Chapter 6 gives us that comfort that we need
whenever we would ever think that we are unloved, uncared for,
lowly and insignificant as – DUST IN THE WIND.

Addressing the crowds glued to Him and listening to His words, Jesus told them that not even King Solomon, in all his royal splendor, was ever arrayed as the most ordinary
How much more does He care for the humans that we are.

As for the birds of the sky, even the smallest ones,
the SPARROWS, that do not sow seed or reap harvests,
or gather into barns, even they our Heavenly Father feeds daily.
How much more does God love us and care for us,
who are surely worth – MORE THAN MANY SPARROWS?

It was from this Sermon on the Mount in Matthew that
Leo Trese took the title of one of his many books.

It is this phrase that must dispel any doubt that we may have, restore any hope that DUST IN THE WIND
may have threatened to steal away.

It remains true that there is a part of us that is dust and ashes.
Of this we must be clear, this we must admit, lest we think that
we, alone, are the lords and masters of the universe.

As clearly we need to affirm, uphold and stand on,
in humble prayer and prayerful humility that each of us,
and all of us, are WORTH – MORE THAN MANY SPARROWS.

After all, the very God who made this world for each of us,
for the eternity where He awaits all of us,
became one of us — in Jesus:
to make sure that we do not lose our way.

That we are DUST IN THE WIND is clear.
But DUST IS NOT ALL WE ARE. We live on.
Our souls are created eternal. To be with our eternal God.

Thanks be to God. That we are — ALIVE AND LOVED.


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