A Commitment of Humility: An Ash Wednesday Reflection

By Wilson Phillips

Throughout the season of Lent, members of the CBU community will offer weekly reflections in order to prepare our hearts and minds for the Easter celebration in 40 days.  Reflections will be posted each Monday during Lent on the various university social media platforms.  Please email cbuministry@cbu.edu with any feedback.

Reading: from the Gospel of Mathew, Chapter 6: 

"Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.  So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.  But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you… Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”


As a staff member of both student life and campus ministry, I have the unique opportunity to work with a wide variety of students.  One of the questions I often get from many students is, “Wilson, do you have any advice for me?”  Now, I’m not naïve enough to believe that I’m the only staff or faculty member who gets that question; but the question always catches me by surprise.  Usually after a lengthy conversation, my advice comes down to the following:

  • stay true to yourself; 
  • give your all in every situation;
  • pay attention to the signs (opportunities) you receive;
  • and remember that God’s timing is perfect.   

Now, I was born and raised a Methodist; educated in the Episcopalian and Catholic traditions; and have family members who are Presbyterian, Seventh Day Adventist, and Church of Christ.  Exposed to so many different denominations, Ash Wednesday has always been a central part of my faith journey.  One of my mentors told me, the ashes are an “outward sign of an inward commitment.”  During these forty days, we commit ourselves to living simple humility. I would encourage you to take moments daily to be self-aware; to examine the ways in which God is leading you; and to remember that God’s timing is not our timing. Prayerful self-reflection is the beginning of true humility.   

Our Gospel reading today reminds us that true reward comes to those whose focus is not on “I or me,” but rather on “us and them.”  Too often, we think of ways to get ahead; compare ourselves to one another; and view wealth and/or success as measures of personal worth.  Yet, scripture suggests those who give selflessly of their time, talent, and treasure in the service of others attain the greatest wealth. 

Today, as you receive ashes, let them serve as the outward sign of the promises you’ve made and the gift you must be to others: to live simply and walk humbly; to invest fully in the opportunities afforded you; and to trust in God’s providence on your journey.    

Looking Ahead 

  • Where do I want to be forty days from now?  
  • Where do my time, talent, and treasure need to be focused?
  • Am I listening to the directions of God? 

Wilson Phillips is a Director of Campus Ministry at Christian Brothers University.

Posted by Josh Colfer at 2:17 PM

The Galleon is curated and managed by Christian Brothers University, a Memphis-based university founded in the Lasallian tradition (a sect within the Catholic faith). Part of our founding mission is to uphold respect for all persons-regardless of political, religious, or social beliefs. As an institution, we take no stand on political matters; to do so would undermine our commitment to intellectual inquiry and thoughtful response to events taking place in our World by members of the CBU community.

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