Something about Ash Wednesday that has perplexed me

I was just on buzzfeed looking at:
27 Pictures That Are Way Too Real For Catholic School Students

There is something that always perplexed me about Ash Wednesday.

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. —Matthew 6:16-18

There are so many different versions of the Bible. I am not sure if this is the exact one, but in general this is the Bible verse for Ash Wednesday. Then everyone proceeds to put Ashes on their face, and wear it all day. I remember mishearing this Bible verse to say, “wash the ashes from your face,” one year. Then I got in line to get ashes put on my face. Yet, in not washing my face afterward, and I guess I received my just reward on Earth and not Heaven.

So every time I run across mention of Ash Wednesday Ashes, I continue to be perplexed at how everyone fails to connect the verse being read to the importance of not wearing their Ashes around town.

I realize this is a tradition to show support. A chance to grow community. I in no mean want to imply it is wrong. Just that the best tradition would be to have another line where you wash the Ashes from you face after they are applied. It would really drive home the Gospel.

Because I have noticed, everyone will ask what you gave up for Lent. Year after year. The message of not receiving your reward on Earth seems to be overlooked. The best thing to say in this case is that you gave up nothing. Judge you they might, but if you boost about everything you gave up… you missed the point of the teaching.

I am worried I might sound a little judgmental. Remember I am a Tarot card using, no-mass attending, free spirit when it comes to faith. I am hardly toting around a bible pointing out every way that it doesn’t line up with the actions of others. Yet, I think there is an important lesson in this verse. One that seems to be being overlooked.


Categories: Beginnings

3 replies »

  1. The point is to enter into the Lenten season whole heartedly and not merely going through the motions or on the surface level. You are putting on the ashes for the benefit of the “father who sees in secret,” the one who knows your heart. Not for the benefit of those who might see you walk around town with the mark on your forehead. The point of this reading is to illuminate this distinction.

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