A Good Man is Hard to Find on Ash Wednesday

Flannery O'ConnorOn Ash Wednesday, I’m going to weave my sermon together with Flannery O’Connor’s short story, A Good Man is Hard to Find. This story follows an escaped murderer, the Misfit, and his encounter with a family on their way to vacation in Florida. The grandmother of this group is tranformed in a moment at the end of the story as she’s facing death at the hands of the Misfit and reaches out to include him as one of her own children in a moment of sheer grace. The Misfit recoils and shoots her, later saying, ” “She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

I believe this is a powerful statement on the way death can tranform our lives. When we are aware of our mortality, it profoundly changes the way we live. I think this is sort of what Ash Wednesday is all about. In the midst of life, we are slowly (or not so slowly) moving closer to death. Let’s hope we don’t need someone there to shoot us every minute to remind of us of this fact and to inspire us to life a life filled with grace, love, joy, and peace. Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.

5 thoughts on “A Good Man is Hard to Find on Ash Wednesday

  1. Whoo-hooo! Excellent take on this story! I’m rather fond of O’Connor’s work, and a friend of mine from undergrad wrote a biography of O’Connor geared toward high school students.

  2. Excellent use of O’Connor’s story here! “Jesus thrown everything off balance. It was the same case with Him as with me except He hadn’t committed any crime…” (from the same story).

  3. DB & jWint: Thanks for your comments. There are a lot of great connections between this story and the themes expressed on Ash Wednesday. I noticed something interesting as I was rereading this story, and that is the description of the purple clothes that the grandmother is wearing. I know some congregations use black or gray, but purple is one of the traditional Lenten colors.

  4. I’m a Lutheran – tradition is one of our forte’s, Purple/Violet and Black are the colors for Ash Wednesday. The Misfit is also wearing a black hat and gets into the accident with a black hearse-like car.

  5. Not surprising for a good Catholic like O’Connor, eh? I wonder if anyone’s ever done an analysis of liturgical themes in her works. That might be interesting.

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