So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
— 2 Corinthians 5:20-21
I remember one year when Ash Wednesday and a presidential debate fell on the same day. Knowing there were a few Catholics involved, I waited to see if any would appear with ashes on their forehead on national television. Alas, none of them did. And of course, there was no mention of it being Ash Wednesday.
It is not a holy day of obligation so maybe no one went to Mass that day. Or maybe they did and after reading Jesus’ admonishment of the hypocrites showing off their fasting, prayers, and almsgiving they decided to wash their foreheads. I certainly would never question a person’s faith by whether or not they still had ashes on their head.
However, we do allow the words of Jesus to serve as an excuse to play down our faith. I don’t think that ever was His intention. Bearing witness and showing off are too different things. I personally love to see all the area high school kids at Mass on Ash Wednesday before school. And I know first hand that most of them wear those ashes all day long and are asked several times what that smudge on their head is all about. Believe me, when you are 16 years old that is not showing off. That’s courage.
Ash Wednesday is a perfect day to bring God into the everyday places and moments of life. Whether you happen to be on television or in a grocery store, those ashes say more that any amount of words. If you can get to Mass early, they will be there all day. So, you say evangelization is difficult and not for you? On Ash Wednesday the Church makes it easy for you.
reflection taken from the book, Everyday Stewardship: Reflections for the Journey, Tracy Earl Welliver, Liturgical Publications, 2015.