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Sound of silence

Ashen faced

Something to read

‘And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

- Matthew 6:16-18 .

Something to think about

If you’re doing a double take every time you walk past a reflective surface today, I’d guess you’ve taken part in the tradition of ‘ashing’. Or perhaps you’ve done something different with your hair – I’m sure it looks lovely! For many of us though, especially in Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist and other traditions, it’s the imposition of ashes that marks out our appearance on this first day of Lent. The smeared black cross on the forehead is a sign to everyone we meet that we have been part of a penitential service at church, and might be an interesting conversation starter for the rest of the day, if nothing else.

Jesus’ words in Matthew then are an interesting choice of reading for this day when we are most likely to display our acts of religion to the outside world. Perhaps the lectionary compliers intended for us to be challenged particularly on this day to avoid the hypocrisy of which we could be at risk. Jesus’ point is not that all outwards signs of piety are wrong, and the benefit of a talking point in our post-Christian culture is significant. But rather that the outward sign could be a falsehood worn for show, unless it is the side-effect of a genuine inward act of worship.

Something to do

Whether or not it’s your tradition to engage in shared worship today, take time to engage with the themes of Ash Wednesday in private prayer: humility and repentance, remembering our mortality before God.

Something to pray

God of integrity, thank you that you see beyond the outward appearance and truly know my heart. Help me to turn my heart towards you today, in genuine humility and real trust. Amen.

Today’s contributor is Rev Claire Jones