Ashes - An Outward Sign

I’m a little confused from today’s Mass reading (Ash Wednesday) from Matthew specifically chapter 6: 5-6. He talks about how we should be doing our sacrificing and our praying in secret–so that others don’t know what we are doing. Ashes are very much an outward sign to others we are Catholic–isn’t this doing just the opposite of what God is telling us in Matthew?

Yes, in fact I think the passage in Matthew specifically mentions not putting ashes on your face.

Hi Deeder,

While I will not take so hard a tack with you as some may have already done, I will side with them. However, I hope I can offer a decent lay understanding of the perceived discrepancy.

**1) **The passage you cite talks about giving and prayer specifically. It does not talk about being identified as loyal to Himself. If that were so, he would not have said we were blessed by being persecuted for our allegiance with Him (which, coincidentally, is in the next chapter of the Gospel you mentioned).

**2) **The passage also mentions things deliberately done in public to gain public praise. And honestly, I expect nothing of the sort for being identified Catholic. However, even if I did receive public praise for it, two more things make this discrepancy inapplicable:

a. I am not intending to be marked for such praise, and

b. the marking I receive is not one for praising at all, except perhaps God alone: the ash symbolizes my utter impermanence and recognition of my need for humility. In other words, arrogant praise for a deliberate sign of penance and fragility is like shouting “WOOHOO!” at the funeral of someone beloved - it’s simply a categorical impossibility when understood correctly.

Hope this helps! :slight_smile:

My Pastor discussed this in his homily this eve. He said that at first it seems to be a contradiction, but it is not. Our Lord was speaking of the intention of the Pharasees to pray in the streets in order to appear holy to others. Our intention is not to appear holy. It is to remind of us of our total dependance on God.

We came from ashes and we shall return to ashes.

You can wipe the ashes off, the blessing remains.

It’s also an interesting way to share one’s faith. As an Episcopalian/Anglican (waiting to swim the Thames as it were), we do Ash Wednesday services and the putting of ashes on the forehead. A lot of people will ask about that ‘smudge’ on the forehead and I tried to answer about how, because of our sin, we should return to dust, yet God, in His mercy and through His Son Jesus Christ, offers eternal life.

Why would wearing ashes, essentially advertising ourselves as Catholic or other Christians, be advertising ourselves as holy? Catholic and/or Christian certainly doesn’t equal holy.

I advertise my Catholic faith because it’s a gift from God to me that I want to share with others, not because being Catholic is something that I’ve done or achieved or earned for myself. I’m boasting in the cross of Christ, as Paul says, and nothing else.

That water is filthy, I wouldn’t recommend it :stuck_out_tongue:

It depends if we are performing outward devotion to be seen and **praised by men. **(Mat 6:2) Our faith can be public as long as we do it for the right reason.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. (Mat 5:14-16)


Ryan :slight_smile:

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