Pathways through Lent

Ash Wednesday

Psalm 103
Joel 2:1-2,12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6,16-21

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1

Today on Ash Wednesday, the scriptures remind us to be secret in giving alms and to avoid “putting on airs” of piety and righteousness for others to see. Despite our influence or affluence on Earth, our true reward is the unearned grace of our Father who art in Heaven.

– Sandra Hackworth

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” These are simple words, but everything in us – every breath, every thought, every dream – conspires to push away the truth they contain. We need to be able to do this – to push aside the certainty of our own death – in order to fully live. But on Ash Wednesday we gather together to claim that we know who we are. We know we are finite. We know we are not God.

Last year was my first Ash Wednesday at St. John’s, and I was deeply moved by the way we impose ashes.  People came to the steps, one at a time, to be marked with this tangible reminder of our mortality. Some looked down, humble, praying, as I touched their heads. “Remember that you are dust….” But most looked directly into my eyes as I touched the ashes with my thumb and marked the cross on their foreheads. “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  It was surprisingly intimate, a moment of connection between two mortal souls. I touched them one at a time, and they touched me.

Remember that you are dust...” I said, but my heart heard, “Remember that we are dust…” We are dust together. And in a world that tries to get us to forget both that we are dust and that we are together in this journey, Ash Wednesday gives me more than enough hope to get me well into Lent.

– The Rev. Virginia Gerbasi

March 5 - Ashes

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