Most of what we talk about on Ash Wednesday is found in the small part of the Sermon on the Mount we get in the lectionary (Matthew 6:1-6,16-21). The rest of the chapter reveals it means so much more.

Ash Wednesday is way more than ashes – it’s the work of forgiveness
Ash Wednesday  |  Matthew 6:1-6,16-21

Ashes and Hearts - On Fire

Every year we hear this gospel about almsgiving and secret prayer. But we hear it outside of its bigger context. In the midst of the Sermon on the Mount, with its incendiary spark in the Beatitudes and its roaring flame at the end of chapter 5, in a call to love our enemies.

This is not some simple talk of piety or a mandate of behavior—this is the voice of one trying to reorient the world away from selfish bitterness and outward approval and toward a God whose love is beyond our comprehension.

This is your Ash Wednesday gospel. It’s supposed to be an accelerant on a flame already building.

Jesus reminds us that we have a say in how we love and pray, and move in this world. We are actors in the drama—and our work shapes everything around us.

That’s what Jesus preaches in the chapter before this. What happens in the middle is something so painfully missing, it is criminal we don’t proclaim it with the rest each year:

The full text and audio may be downloaded above or here.