(Originally published at The Times Union.)
What is it about Ash Wednesday? What calls so many people into church? Is it the desire to show off our marked foreheads? If so, that runs in contradiction to today’s Gospel.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
But I got my ashes, shouldn’t people know? I mean, how can they not know?
I thought that I was announcing the Good News via the smudge on my forehead! Hey! Look! I went to church today and I am sorry for my sins! Can’t you see that? Continue reading
We are going to go to church today to have our foreheads marked with ashes. We are going to be reminded of our death and we are invited to grow closer to God so that we might actually change. Repent, rethink, re-orient, restore. Return.
The first reading from today’s Scriptures, from the prophet Joel, is clear:
Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart,
While Joel then intones us to do a lot of mourning and weeping, we are also reminded in the Gospel a few moments later, by none less than Jesus himself:
“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance…”
That’s pretty clear too!
We are invited to traverse this place, these forty days, bracketed between those seemingly opposing thoughts. Focus on the returning seems to be the message.
Our Ashes remind us that we are all going to die; our instructions for Lent remind us that we all need to live in a particular way.
Can we do this?
This is a journey, one that is not simply between God and any individual one of us. The journey is made together. We are all ultimately alone with God in that moment of transformation that death brings, but resurrection is about the promise of Christ for all.
Have a good Ash Wednesday. I look forward to making this journey in community with you.