Rend Your Hearts, Not Your Garments

Today is Ash Wednesday.

This is a big day for Christians.  It’s the first day of Lent, a time of fasting and atonement to prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus.  It’s not a Holy Day of Obligation like Christmas, Palm Sunday, and Easter, but it’s still a big deal.  Us Christians haul ourselves off to Mass mid-week (if Catholic this can be particularly unsettling…gasp!) to remind ourselves this is the start of a 40-day period when we should remember to give, to sacrifice.

(In my opinion, we (all humans, not just Christians) should be doing that all year-long, but let’s not split hairs.  If we (meaning me) can pull it off for 40 days straight, a habit may be formed and then there’s no hair to split.)

Anyway, Ash Wednesday.  We go to church.  We listen to the priest.  We sing a few hymns.  We eagerly step out of our pews to march single file up the aisle so the priest can sketch a little cross out of ashes on our foreheads.  We leave Mass to go back to work, to run errands, to visit friends, all while sporting a dusty black smudge for the world to see.

And yet, the Gospel reading for today said:

Matthew 6: 1 – 6, 16 – 18


1 “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 “Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
16 “And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,
18 that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

There’s some irony there, don’t you think?

Mine looks nothing like this. Mine looks like I stuck my hand in the ashes and then wiped the sweat off my brow...a big black smudge.

Advertisements