A first grade teacher was telling her students about receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday. When she was finished she asked, “D you have any questions?” One little girl raised her hand and asked, “Are they FREE?”
I love this true story. Though she was only six years old, the little girl knew how wonderful it was to get something for nothing. I don’t know what answer that teacher gave to that child, but I do know the answer I would give to an adult. Are the ashes free? YES and NO.
Yes, the ashes are free. No collection will be taken up to pay for them. But in another way, the ashes are NOT free. Why? Because the ashes are a way of publicly proclaiming our faith. When we receive them we are saying, “These ashes mark me as a disciple of Jesus.” And being a disciple of Jesus always costs us something. That cost can take many forms: being patient with a whining child, giving generously to your church, making time for prayer, doing small favors cheerfully, forgiving a past hurt, being honest when we’re tempted to cheat or lie.
The beginning of Lent is a good time to ask ourselves: Do my words and actions mark me as a disciple of Jesus? I would also like to hear from you. Do you have any suggestions for Lenten practices that you would be willing to share with us?