This year Lent had such a unique start with Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day landing at the same place in the calendar. As the day began and I watched the morning news, it appeared this day was going to be all about the secular holiday of Valentine’s chocolates, cards, and romance. Then, in the afternoon, I was at Marquette, and as I walked across campus, I encountered one cross smudged forehead after another, and I was heartened to think room had been made for the religious tradition. When I saw my sweet friend Janie with her Ash Wednesday ashes on her forehead and holding her beautiful rose, I was delighted to be reminded there is room for both the symbols of sacrifice and of love in the human heart.
My amazing editor, Michelle Lukas, expressed this same sentiment beautifully as we discussed this:
“I’ve been really appreciating the lens that this Ash Wednesday has given us. I’ve always viewed Lent first through the lens of sacrifice, both in what I fast from and Jesus’ sacrifice. But this year, I have found myself viewing Lent first through the lens of Love. Jesus’ love for us, showing love to others, and loving myself through what I ‘give up.’ As I put these thoughts in writing, it seems pretty obvious that Love was always the first lens to view Lent through, but, for me, it’s taken the St. Valentine’s Day/Ash Wednesday combo to really open my eyes.”
Our willingness to sacrifice for others always expresses the best part of our human nature. And, hopefully, this Lent we will find some sacrifice we can make for the good of others, giving something to someone who needs our resources, our time, our care. But the inner work of Lent is internalizing the belief and understanding that the greatest sacrifice was God’s when he gave us his Son and the Son’s sacrifice to suffer for us out of pure and unconditional love. So maybe the confluence of the holiday for expressing love and the feast that begins the season of Lent to remember Jesus’ sacrificial love can have meaning for us in a special way this year.
May your Lent be filled with blessings of the love you share and the love you know in your deepest heart from the God who loved you first and loves you most.