Our Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday. This year, it's seems rather early beginning on February 6th, but that is how it falls this year. Lent is a time of repentance. It marks the 40 days prior to Easter excluding Sundays and is symbolic of the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert.
"'For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning'. By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert." (CCC 540).
It's also a time to search our character and meditate on Christ in our lives. A time to ask forgiveness of God for our sins and to truly turn from the things that lead us into sin. A time to give forgiveness to others if we are harboring bitterness or resentment against another. How can we go to God asking Him to forgive our transgressions against Him if we are refusing to forgive someone who's sinned against us? Lent isn't for hypocrites.
What would the point be in fasting, abstaining and asking God to forgive your sins while you withhold forgiveness from someone? A bit like telling God, you know you deserve to be forgiven but that guy over there isn't worthy until you yourself decide when he is worthy enough to be forgiven. It doesn't work that way. If you are going to ask God for forgiveness and truly repent, you need to first forgive those who have sinned against you so that your Father in Heaven will forgive you of your sins. What do you gain by holding bitterness and anger at someone? Nothing. What do you gain by forgiving others? Your own forgiveness from God.
Mk. 11:24-25 "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."
Luke 17:4 "If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."
So when you go to mass on Ash Wednesday and receive the sign of the cross in ashes on your forehead, don't do it as a hypocrite. Do it as a truly repentant sinner asking God to forgive you as you have forgiven others.
Our Father, Who art in heaven Hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses,as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.