Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
It is a funny paradox that this is one of the things the Church has to say to us on Ash Wednesday, precisely the day when we all rise from our seats and return to them only after having donned the ostentatious ashes on our foreheads. Why? Precisely because this is not an act of piety nor a boast. One might as well claim that a beggar wearing a barrel in public was looking for applause. The ashes on our forehead betoken, not our splendor but our poverty, not our nobility but our wretchedness, not our wonderfulness but our need of a Savior from the ashes to which we shall return. It is no boast to publicly acknowledge our need of a Savior. It is simply sober common sense and the very first thing the Church has to proclaim to the world. Today, wear the ashes with humility and let people see what you are made of.