Today, the world celebrates Valentine’s Day. Today, Christians mark Ash Wednesday. It is the first time since the Second World War that Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day are marked on the same day. For many this has raised a peculiar question: Is it fasting or champagne? Is it ashes or chocolate? Is it celebration or abstinence?
But if we step back a moment and take the broader view it is probably most appropriate that the beginning of Lent this year is celebrated with the confluence of these two days. Lent after all is about reminding us of the unconditional love of God for all people. Fr. Ben Butler (St Stephen’s Church, Nashville) says, ‘With Lent itself, it’s a constant reminder of how God has been good to us. But also how in our individual lives, we’re called to love God and grow in that love even more.’ That is the journey that every Christian is on – to grow in the love of God. Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia says, ‘If we accept that God’s love is unconditional…then we will become capable of showing boundless love.’
As Christians we look to Jesus in whom love found its perfect expression. Ash Wednesday sets us on that journey when we reflect on how Jesus lived out the love he experienced from his Father and in turn shared with all humanity to the point of dying on the cross. It is the ultimate expression of love – to give one’s life for another. It is love that we strive for. A love that is generous and totally self- giving.
Valentine’s Day gives us the opportunity to thank the people in our lives who give us a glimpse into the love of God. It is a time to be grateful for all the people who open us to receive and give love. It is an occasion when we affirm the love that we share with the significant people in our lives.
And no better day to do it than on the day when we are reminded that we were created in the image and likeness of God! It is a day when we rejoice in the fact that we are made of stardust. It is a day when we acknowledge the faltering ways of human love. It is a day when we commit ourselves to journeying towards the perfection of the love shared by Jesus and lavished by God.
So this 14th of February, while we celebrate the love we share with each other and the significant people in our lives, we also remember that we are created and loved by God and ‘in him we live and move and have our being.’
READ: Eat, Pray, Love: An Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Dilemma
WATCH: The Joy of Love
CONSIDER: Lectio Divina for Ash Wednesday