14 February 2018
“If you’ve got it, flaunt it!” In some way, most of us want to impress people with our gifts; maybe it’s our intellect or our physical appearance, or perhaps it’s even our devotion to God that we parade in front of others. Today’s gospel passage is clear that we must seek to impress God alone.
This requires a motives check-up. After all, motives matter when it comes to God. As we begin the season of Lent, we are reminded of the correct attitude that must accompany all our prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Jesus says that when we fast,
“Put oil on your head and wash your face so that no one will know that you are fasting.”
So why are we marked with ashes, ashes being a biblical sign of repentance and fasting, on the same day in which we are told by Jesus not to do such a thing?
Jesus regularly calls out hypocrisy and spiritual pride as it closes off a person from a genuine encounter with God.
As He says at the start of the passage,
“Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice.”
So why do we still apply ashes at the beginning of Lent?
The answer is to look closely at the sign on our foreheads: the sign of the cross.
On Ash Wednesday, we accept a mark of ashes on our forehead, a mark that will distinguish us publically as sinners. What we know privately about ourselves we show to the world. It is also a sign to the world that we have received something extraordinary and undeserved from the Lord Jesus. – the gift of a new start and the unexpected grace of another chance.
The sign of the cross and the repentance it invites is truly an anointing with priceless oil. One that cleanses us from our sin and motivates us to do good works purely out of love for God.