Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of a 40-day penitential season of Lent in Western Christianity. For us Roman Catholics it is a day of fasting and prayer.

During the Ash Wednesday Mass, the faithful are marked with an ashen cross. The cross is placed on our forehead as a sign that we are dust, and to dust we shall return (Genesis 3:19).

Lent is a season in which Christians reflect on their sins and shortcomings and, more importantly, work toward repentance and correction. Christians everywhere should take this opportunity to self-examine through prayer and sacrifice. The most important single element of Christianity is that—because of Jesus’s sacrifice—salvation is open to us all. We, however, have to accept it by striving to live a Christian life.

Lent allows us, through our own small sacrifices, an opportunity to remind ourselves of this and begin moving in the right direction.