Ash Wednesday begins the liturgical season of Lent. It is the time of preparation for the commemoration and celebration of Christ's Passion, Death and Resurrection at the Easter Triduum. Ashes, the result of burning the palms from last year's Palm Sunday procession, are blessed and placed on our forehead to remind us that we are God's people, created, redeemed, forgiven and "raised up" again by God's merciful love.
God created us from the dust of the earth and unto dust we shall return. He created us into being out of love, his love, and our being, our soul will live forever. Hopefully we will choose to live with him!
God redeemed us through his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, so great was his love for us. As a people we turned away from him to serve "other gods". Some of us are still doing that! And so the prophet Joel begs us to return to God with a sincere and contrite heart to obtain his mercy. Psalm 51 provides us the heart and soul of this desire.
Again and again, God forgives us. Some people may think, "God has forgiven me once; he will not forgive me again!" This is not true. No matter how many times we sin, God, our loving Father, is ready to forgive us. This is because he is God, not man. He says, "My ways are not your ways, and your ways are not my ways." (Is. 55:8) God is bigger than our sins! Our Father in heaven, who "sees the secret of the heart", will reward all those who turn to him with a contrite heart, are humble and sincere, without desire for personal gain at the expense of the poor, grateful and loving.