When I place ashes on anyone’s forehead I say, “Remember, man, you are but dust, and to dust you shall return.”
That of which we are made isn’t dust, exactly. Genesis says the Lord formed man out of the clay of the ground; and, we are composed of carbon, calcium, potassium, and other clay-like stuff.
Why does the Church remind us that we are dust? I suppose, like Thomas Gray’s “Elegy on a Country Church Yard” she is reminding us that “the paths of glory lead but to the grave.”
Our efforts may secure us power, fame or riches, but how secure can those achievements be. Can you take them with you?
What we can take with us is the gratitude of people we help. And God, who cannot be outdone in gratitude, will extend his gratitude to us for ever and ever and ever.