To my mind, the lessons for Ash Wednesday have always dripped with irony. Considering this is a day when we literally wear our piety on our foreheads, Jesus is warning us, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them.” In years past I have focused on the latter part of that warning, “…in order to be seen by them.” Nowhere does Jesus say not to give alms, fast, or pray. He just says, “Don’t do these things in order to be seen by others.”
This Ash Wednesday, however, my attention has been drawn to the latter part of the gospel lesson. The part where Jesus’ words are at least as descriptive as they are prescriptive:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Recently I’ve really been devouring the profound short stories found in Anthony DeMello’s little book, The Song of the Bird. The other night as my mind was racing with “things left undone,” I came out to the living room to read, and my eyes fell upon this story about treasure. I offer it to you as an Ash Wednesday Reflection on the Run.
The sannyasi had reached the outskirts of the village and settled down under a tree for the night when a villager came running up to him and said, “The stone! The stone! Give me the precious stone!
“What stone?” asked the sannyasi.
“Last night the Lord Shiva appeared to me in a dream,” said the villager, “and told me that if I went to the outskirts of the village at dusk I should find a sannyasi who would give me a precious stone that would make me rich forever.”
The sannyasi rummaged in his bag and pulled out a stone. “He probably meant this one,” he said, as he handed the stone over to the villager. “I found it on a forest path some days ago. You can certainly have it.”
The man gazed at the stone in wonder. It was a diamond, probably the largest diamond in the whole world, for it was as large as a person’s head.
He took the diamond and walked away. All night he tossed about in bed, unable to sleep. Next day at the crack of dawn he woke the sannyasi and said, “Give me the wealth that makes it possible for you to give this diamond away so easily.”
Consider this the next time you hear and say these words:
Celebrant Lift up your hearts.
People We lift them to the Lord.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/154131507″>Ash Wednesday Invitation SPEC2016</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user48565690″>stpaulssatx</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>