It didn’t begin with an official Catholic proclamation of ashes, reminding us of our mortality and impending return to that physical essence.  Indeed, Ash Wednesday is neither a holy day of obligation, nor considered “necessary” in order to be redeemed.
​Yet, by some estimates, more than two billion Christian souls will observe this day with a nearly universal ritual of a cross of palm ash on the forehead, and a simple blessing:

“Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” 

Why does this single act so resonate with us?  What – in this reminder of our ultimate death and return to an essence of earthly substance – compels us to seek it?
On January 2nd, my wife and I boarded a cruise ship with friends, bound for an eleven-day journey across five Caribbean islands…something we’d never before done.  In between island stops, we were at sea – referred to by the cruise line as a “Day at Sea.”

On our last day at sea, with the sun setting against a cloudy western horizon, a remarkable image was forming.  I wandered over to a wall of glass on the uppermost level of the ship, to try capturing it with my phone’s camera.  Before long, I felt the presence of people on either side.  Pausing, I turned to my left, to my right…and saw people thronging to capacity along the port side, many doing what I was doing:  trying to capture a remarkable image. 

In that moment, it struck me:  We are each on a journey, called to witness, bound for return…home.
Digital magic:  HJMcEnroe
'Blood in the Sky' is a prayer -- a humble reflection on the transient nature of our lives.  To quote David Morris, author of The Evil Hours, "We are born in debt, owing the world a death."  We each come into the world the same way; but the way we exit this life is both a product of our life's choices and the circumstances around how we've lived.  At the end of the journey, whether abrupt or prolonged, our exit is a process of returning.  ‘Blood in the Sky’ is but an acknowledgement of that process, a reflection on the fact that we all pay that "debt" by returning home.

Now, you know what is in my heart and soul, what was on my mind the last evening of a Caribbean cruise, as the Artist of Light graced us with this vision.  We each, I humbly submit, carry the imprint of our creator.  This was part of the central message of an itinerant Jewish rabbi some two-thousand years ago:  "I know my sheep, and mine know me."  - John 10:14

Throughout the season of Lent, you may find yourself in reflections akin to the message of this poem.  Each of you -- on your own homeward journeys -- are in my prayers this Lent.  

Peace.  Shalom.
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