On Ash Wednesday usually someone comes up to me and asks me why there is a smudge on my head. Thinking I’ve not taken a shower, they try to figure out what it is, and then attempt to clean it off. I should be thankful they noticed: it would be worse if they didn’t.
Most of us want to be noticed. Either by someone we like, our parents, our employer, or just strangers who can identify the various trinkets we adorn ourselves with. We buy cars and obsess over reality TV. We wear clothes that call attention to us. We want to be seen.
Plenty of people used to go to church just to be noticed. It’s not very much to ask for. There are plenty of things we do for no other reason than to be assured that we’re respectable and cool. But when Jesus says, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” he’s practically saying, “who cares if you’re cool? Maybe the cool people. Or people who aren’t cool and want to be like you.” What is noticed by Love is not always what we think gets noticed.
And yet it does. But what are the rewards? What are people working for? Jesus identifies how easy it is for us to be moved by others; and instead asks us about what our private wishes are. The challenge is for us to found our own power, without the anxieties that our class or status bring.
It may take work. At least forty days. We are so inundated with people trying to gather out attention, that it may take us making radical choices – choices that might not be easy to make. To discover who we are and what we are meant to be might require sacrifices; it might require a little bit of discipline. The purpose may not be to refrain for the sake of refraining, but rather to learn to pay attention better.
Perhaps once we’ve let go of our distractions we might notice our world differently – we might relearn how to see it. Instead of being dull and overwhelming, the world will become enchanted and reliable. Because we have given up the craziness of always being noticed, we ourselves will notice what glorious things are right in front of us.