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Doesn’t Jesus Say Not to Wear Ashes on Your Forehead?

On Ash Wednesday, to kick off the penitential season of Lent in preparation for Easter, many of us go to Mass and receive ashes on our foreheads (or the crown of our heads) as a reminder of death and of the fleeting nature of worldly things. When we receive the ashes, we are told by the minister, “Remember, you are dust, and unto dust you shall return” or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.”

But the ashes are more than a personal reminder; they are an outward sign as well. It’s not as if we can see our own foreheads, so is it meant to be a sign for others?

Hang on—didn’t Jesus tell us not to be ostentatious about our sacrifices and penances? In the Gospel of Matthew, we read, “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).

Doesn’t Ash Wednesday contradict this? By wearing ashes, and especially by sporting them and exhibiting them, aren’t we going against our Lord’s command?

Read more at Catholic Answers

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