Home > Life Lessons > You must not be like the hypocrites…but am I?

You must not be like the hypocrites…but am I?

I’m usually not one to enter into much debate over religion, politics, or anything that can be controversial. I listen a lot, and I think a lot, but publicly? Not so much.

But last week, my favorite Catholic newspaper posted a question on its Facebook page: “Story input needed! Ash Wed is not a holy day — so why do you go? And how do you explain the smudge on your forehead to non-Catholics?”

Ash Wednesday has always left me quite conflicted. Growing up, I was taught it is a day to remember that we are all sinners, and we will die some day, but we have chances (such as Lent) to focus on bettering ourselves and becoming better people through acts of fasting, prayer and almsgiving (how’s that for a Catholic school answer from a girl who never went to Catholic school til college?).

But each year, I remember sitting at church on Ash Wednesday and listening to the Gospel.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

Ok. Don’t be prideful. I can work on that.

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Ok. I like my room. Can do.

“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.”

Wait a minute. Shortly after this reading, I’m going to approach a priest and he will smear the ashes of last year’s palms across my forehead to remind me that I am dust and I will die.

Is smearing ashes on my forehead NOT the opposite of annointing my head and washing my face so that my fasting may not be seen?

And I was taught to not hide those ashes, but to be proud of them and not wash them off. Um…I’m confused.

Now, I’m not one to question the church very often…but maybe this reading and the ash smearing should not occur so close together?

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Categories: Life Lessons Tags: , ,
  1. Angie
    March 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Okay… I was reading this and thinking, “Wow… Mary’s actually sounding pretty deep.” … Until I got to the end. 😉 But I guess you bring up a good point… in a way that only YOU could. 🙂

    • March 4, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      It IS deep! And sources say, there may be some priests who wonder about this same thing.

  2. David
    • March 4, 2011 at 4:03 pm

      Great article David. I love the conclusion.

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