Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return

Hopefully by this time on Ash Wednesday you have heard these words and had ashes placed on your forehead.  But why do we do this?  It runs counter to Jesus words in today’s Gospel.

“When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Yet here we are running around with ashes smeared on our foreheads for everyone to see.  No, the ashes aren’t there to show everybody how holy we are.  The key is in the words the priest or deacon speaks.  We are dust and we’re going to return to dust.  What you see now is just our intermediate state.  We only pass through this life for a short time.  On this Ash Wednesday glance in the mirror once in a while and be reminded of where we came from and where we’re going.

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