“Remember, man, you are dust
and to dust you will return.”
It is difficult for many people to understand why Catholics wear ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday. After all, Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. In that one perfect sacrifice, all was fulfilled, and the only thing left is for us to accept the work that has already been completed in Jesus.
Exactly so! Jesus’ death and resurrection took care of everything. There is nothing we could have ever done, or ever can do, that would have atoned for our own sins, let alone the sins of the entire world. And that is the point, actually. We are nothing more than dust, and without God, we have no meaning, no purpose. It is only through Jesus that we can ever hope to become something more.
But it is so easy to forget what God did for us. So easy to become self-reliant, self-sufficient. We can easily begin to believe that we are ‘good enough’ and that we don’t really ‘need’ God. We are lulled into believing that we’re special, of our own accord. Unless of course we find ourselves in dire circumstances, in which even atheists start to call upon the name of the Lord!!
So, on Ash Wednesday, we wear ashes on our foreheads to remind ourselves of who and what we really are. And, most of all, they remind us why we need the amazing God who was willing to sacrifice His only Son on a cross to lift us from the ashes of death to the glories of eternity.