How many of us kept the ashes we received at Mass today on our forehead? How many of us wiped them off after Mass and as we headed back home or work? How many of us wore them as a source of pride? Certainly if the Cross was pronounced or stark, it would be a talking point for some.
Now how many of us felt a little perplexed to ask what should we do, in light of today’s Gospel? Jesus tells us not to make a spectacle of our faith and make a show of it – INSTEAD, we should “pray in our room and in secret”. Have we got it all wrong in keeping our ashes?
I think it’s how we wear those ashes that matter, my friends. If we wear them “as a source of pride” or ANYONE around us can see a contradiction between the ashes we carry and the person behind them…we’ve got work to do. I think most of us humbly begin Lent recognizing that we have work to do anyway. When we look in a mirror, are we reminded of what those ashes signify? That we are mortal and that our lives, while they are of great value and matter greatly to the Lord our God and surely to many other people too – are more than the earthen vessel (our bodies) which contain our immortal souls. Is what “moves” us to action a recognition of a need to be like Christ? Or are we comfortable to be inactive; living for ourselves, for comfort, for today, for the lesser things in life – in which case, we do the world a disservice wearing ashes or calling ourselves God-loving, God-fearing people.
Friends, if and ONLY IF we are prepared to wear our ashes as a sign of a new beginning today, then we can wear them in the Joy of Christ who shall be ever closer to us through these forty days ahead. May God bless you!