Ash Wednesday is the first day of the season of Lent. The ashes are placed on our foreheads as a sign of repentance. Repentance literally means to think again or to change one’s way of thinking in regard to sin. In other words, repentance is the active resolve to turn away from sin.
In the Old Testament times, people would put ashes on themselves as an external sign of repentance. For example, the people of Nineveh repented in a similar way after Jonah’s preaching.
“… the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying,
‘Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way …’ ” (Jonah 3:5-8)
We too must examine our lives and resolve to turn from sin through God’s grace. By turning from sin we can be reconciled to God and then grow in holiness. Jesus specifically instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) so that we may turn away from sin and its destructive effects, turn back to God, and obtain the forgiveness of sins.
During this season of Lent, may we turn away from sin with renewed efforts and run into the open arms of God, Our Loving Father!