I am trying to head off inevitable “questions” by my co-workers – they are trying to “save me” from the horrors of being a Catholic. Please provide me with Biblical references for my wearing my ashes.
Actually, the Scripture readings for Ash Wednesday are very helpful in defending the Catholic practice of wearing ashes – which is a sign of mourning and repentance:
“Yet even now,” says the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil (Joel 2:12-13).
(Jesus said): “And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:16-18).
Point out that both passages encourage fasting and repentance, and while Jesus warns not to “disfigure” the face, he does leave open the possibility of an anointing, which is basically a blessing. Receiving the blessed ashes does indeed mean that one is receiving a blessing.