Wednesday, February 22, Ash Wednesday | Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

The Very Rev. Aidan Smith

So much of life seems to be about avoiding the impending reality of death. But today, despite our best efforts, we will not escape it. As the cold, gritty ash is pressed into our skin, the words come, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” The black crosses drying uncomfortably on our foreheads act as a reminder that our flesh will return to the earth and become, once again, dust. Honestly, the whole day would be a real downer if it weren’t for the grace, mercy, and salvation of God. Friends, even today, death does not have the final word. Because of the ministry of Jesus Christ, through his cross and resurrection, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:54b-55).

Today, as we begin our Lenten observance, a season of repentance and prayer, fasting and self-denial, we must hold these two truths in tension. All of us will die, but if we, in the words of the Prophet Amos, “Seek the Lord and live,” we will, in fact, live in and through Jesus Christ. As we engage in various acts of spiritual discipline in the weeks to come, let them be opportunities to rely upon the Holy Spirit and, with his help, pursue God. Let us cast off the works of darkness, self-reliance, and find our life in him. And though we are dust, we shall live!

Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Fr. Aidan is the Dean of Trinity Cathedral. He’s been married to Mel for 15 years and takes responsibility for the two incredibly cute but loud kids at church (Felicity, 5 and Solomon, 3). The Smiths also have a geriatric, one-eyed dog named Coho from Aidan’s hometown in northwestern Alaska.