Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday

These are the thoughts running through my mind as I prepare for Ash Wednesday. If these shows, like The Bachelorette, Joe Millionaire and others, tell us anything it is that there is a deep longing in us to be loved and accepted, and that to gain that love, we must be able to make favorable impressions.
Image result for ash wednesdayGetting ahead in life, we've come to understand, is about making good first impressions and then backing up the impression with credible behavior.

But God turns this all upside down. God will love and accept us, to be sure, but it has nothing to do with favorable first impressions.

In fact, were it simply a matter of impressions, God would've been through with us long ago.

Jesus also was emphatic about the futility of trying to impress God by impressing men. Notice what he says in our Ash Wednesday Gospel.

· "Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before others, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."

· "When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets." 

· "When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray ... on the street corners to be seen by men." 

· "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do." 

· "When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father."

The impression that matters is the Cross, an impression expression made by Christ alone. We should do "acts of righteousness," we should pray, we should fast, but not because such actions will in any way add to our spiritual bank balance.

Ash Wednesday is an opportunity to remember that our bank balance is zero; to remember that in Christ and in him alone, we are rich: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich."

So take the ashes on your forehead. How good can we look in ashes? Doesn't matter, and that's the point. Ashes are a good place from which to arise, remembering we are but dust, and serve humbly our God who loves us and gave his Son for us.