Transcription of the homily offered
By The Very Reverend William Carl Thomas
at 7:00 am on Ash Wednesday
February 22, 2012
At Saint Matthews Episcopal Church, Charleston West Virginia
Click here to listen to the homily.
In a few moments, you will be invited to come forward to have the sign of the cross placed on your foreheads. And it will be placed on your foreheads using ashes that will come from palms that were used to celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. And then, of course, we know what happened the rest of that week and how all turned on him. And, so, they are a marvelous symbol of the Great Faithfulness of God: The cross that is put on your forehead.
You see, it is this cross that Jesus goes to. And if you think about it, there is another cross that’s already been put on your forehead, put on at baptism, when you are marked as Christ’s own in the Holy Spirit, by the Holy Spirit.
Now, over the course of the day, something may happen to this marvelous sign of God’s faithfulness. Perhaps you’ll put a hat on like I will. It’s cold out. And it will get a little smudged as the day goes on. Now, perhaps, what happens with this smudge, you can begin to think of it as the same type of smudge that’s on your heart: That speaks, perhaps, to our unfaithfulness to God.
We’re entering into a season when we can reflect on how faithful God is to us, how steadfast God’s love is to us always, and how easy it is for us to let our hearts be smudged, covered with grit and dirt. And today, as part of what we do, we make clear that we recognize how far and how easy it is for to fall away from our faithfulness when we cry out, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” When we pray the Litany of Penitence, and we basically take a very thorough inventory of how easy it is for us to fall away.
But the important thing to remember is this: The mark that is on your forehead that has become marred or smudged as the day goes on is really, simply, that outward sign of the hidden sign of the cross that was put on you in baptism: The cross that Jesus freely went to. And it also reminds us of the new life that comes after death that we will find in the resurrection on Easter Day. So our journey reminds us of how easy it is for us to fall away, but it should also remind us how tremendously God will never let go. That is the Great Faithfulness of God. I pray you find that faithfulness in your journey of Lent.
All these words I offer in the name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.