Why is there dirt on your forehead?
Along with many other questions we, as Catholics, are asked on Ash Wednesday, this question is one that we should focus on. The purpose of wearing ashes on our foreheads is to remind us to repent because we came from ashes and to ashes we shall return. When people see us wearing ashes on our foreheads we are bearing a witness for the Catholic Faith and all that we believe in.
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the liturgical season of Lent. Lent is the period of 40 days and 40 nights in which we fast, abstain, as well as perform other acts to prepare our souls for Easter. Lent is symbolic of the 40 days and 40 nights Christ spent fasting and praying in the desert to prepare for His public ministry. A good way to think of Lent is to compare it to "spring cleaning". During Lent we take a step back and look at the clutter in our souls that is keeping us from having a strong relationship with God. By fasting, abstaining, and prayer we our sacrificing our bodily wants in order to focus on our Spiritual needs , and we receive the grace that we need to remove that clutter from our souls.
Think about it. Do we want to go to the Easter Mass and have a strained relationship with the God that sacrificed Himself in order for us to be saved? I hope answer is no. That is the reason why we have the liturgical season of Lent; we are presented with a time period in which we can fully focus on cleansing our souls so that we may have a better relationship with God. Easter is one of the best times to give thanks to our Lord and Savior. What better time is their to thank Him and praise Him than when we celebrate the Paschal Mystery, His suffering, death, and Resurrection?
Here is a reflective prayer for Ash Wednesday.
The house of my soul is narrow;
enlarge it that you may enter in.
It is ruinous, O repair it!
It displeases Your sight.
I confess it, I know.
But who shall cleanse it,
to whom shall I cry but to you?
Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord,
and spare Your servant from strange sins.
St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430)