Excerpted from 2023 Lenten Guide: A Season of Renewal, a Lenten Guide for Lectionary Year A from the North Carolina Council of Churches.
Beware of practicing your righteousness before others in order to be seen by them, for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever 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.
“Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” These words echo in my head each year on Ash Wednesday. A time when we receive our ashes, reflect on our lives, and bare our truest selves to God – the beautiful, the lost, the joyful, the conflicted – every version of ourselves. From the moment we receive our ashes, God sees us for who we were, who we are, and who we will become. Today is the time to reflect on who exactly we are and how we can truly live into our faith.
As I read over these verses from Matthew, I think about going into the world with a renewed sense of hope, generosity, and humility. This passage directs us to act humbly, and, if we do, we shall be rewarded. What exactly is humility? What is our reward? Humility, simply put, is truth. Humility is living in and accepting the truth. So, what does that mean for us? By living as our most authentic selves, we are able to act humbly through God and our faith. Isn’t that our reward as well? To be as we are.
Today, as we receive our ashes, let us go with the intention of making a promise to God and ourselves to face the world as our most authentic selves, promising to learn from our successes and mistakes, and to continue to grow within ourselves and with others in pursuit of the world God wants for each of us.
Prayer: God, be with me this Ash Wednesday as I promise to live as my most authentic self, to act humbly through my faith and your word. Grant that I may go into the world and do your will. Amen.
Sharon Quate says
“Most authentic self” …
What a magnificent thought for Ash Wednesday reflection.
Bren Feutz says
Terrific reflection Rachel! Thank you for sharing. Indeed we need to be authentic, within ourselves and more importantly, with others. Humility
Carol Prokop says
Beautiful. Will send this to a an incarcerated pen pal friend at Forsyth Correctional Center. He is a Catholic who has not had the opportunity to participate in Catholic ritual in the prisons since before we started corresponding in November, 2019 – but a deacon will be bringing ashes to the prison today.
Greg Roche says