The theme of Ash Wednesday, three weeks later on St. Patrick’s Day: Momento Mori – “Remember your death.”
Death is not only a theme for this season, but a theme of the Bible. It is easy to think that there are gross and terrible sins that would be worthy of death. Few of us can constrain a feeling of wanting vengeance on people who are responsible for mass murders or terrorism. Yet seemingly buried in the book of Leviticus is this:
If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head.
Hardly your typical retort for badmouthing a parent. Yet even with this offense comes the sting of death. Sin has a constant knell of death, even in all its subtleties.
What do we do? How can we escape even those small insignificant sins that God deems as worthy of our utter demise? The theme of Scripture is that sin, in any of its forms, leads to death. In his Sermon on the Mount, Christ cleared away any thought or idea that we could escape the clutches of sin on our own. He said that sin is not the deed, but the condition of the heart. Who can escape themselves?
Yet the story does not end there. Christ, God enfleshed, took the penalty for our sin. He took the death that we should have died and made it his own. God himself died in our place, and took our sins to hell with him. And he came back!
He turned the tables. He foiled sin’s plan.
It is now the herald of a conquering king. It is now sin that must tremble in fear of its own demise. It is sin that will be destroyed and sentenced to eternity in hell. Sin will meets its final end, and those of us who are called by the king and seek repentance will be freed from slavery to sin. And sin will no longer master us.
Sin, I am talking to you. Your days are numbered. Momento Mori!