I love how people actually forget they have black ashes on their forehead so quickly after Ash Wed. service.
If we could see it would we leave it on long enough for others to see? If you say something to them, there is that "oh" moment.. their hand goes to their forehead... mumbling something about "Ash Wed.. church.. you know".. ( I confess I have known/and own this response) .
Sometimes the reticence comes more from the realization that we had so quickly forgotten the ashes were there.. forgotten already what we just participated in......the confession, repentence, forgiveness that has just taken place. We accepted the Grace, and move on.
We are called to not just move on, but beyond "serving our own interests" ( Isaiah 58) ...to removing the sins of the community. ( thanks Father Bry for this important connection)
We are called to action to " loose the bonds of injustice, undo the thongs of the yoke, let the oppressed go free." (Isaiah again)
This Old Testament reading from Isaiah for Ash Wed. begins..."Thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity. Shout out. Do not hold back!"
Shout out your rejection of oppression. Shout out against the injustice of poverty. Break not only the bonds of our own sins, but also the sins that imprison others. "
Transformation is not only "inside" work ( taking the time to look at oneself, asking God to illuminate what needs to be healed and tranformed within us) But, it is also "outside" work.
Forget ourselves, forget our ashes, and in in acting on behalf of others, WE are fed, watered, rebuilt, and restored. And both are not for our sake, but for Gods sake and glory.