This year Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day – the first time since 1945. Googling this date has been an interesting experience. I see that some religious groups have communicated to their followers that Ash Wednesday trumps Valentine’s Day and they should therefore still uphold the tradition of fasting from meat and other sweet treats. This might make for some very bland romantic meals!
I was wondering if there was any connection between the two celebrations?
While I am not an avid fan of searching through Valentine cards at the local newsagent, I do recall from my younger years that such cards make sentiments such as, ‘I would go to the ends of the earth for you’, ‘I give my all for you’, and, ‘I love you with all my heart’.
Having celebrated 28 years of marriage to my wonderful wife, I am sure that both she and I can recall moments when such Valentine sentiments have been lived out, and unfortunately, when they have not been lived out.
That’s why Ash Wednesday is so important. It marks the beginning of a period of time (40 days) to reflect upon our humanity with all its failings, with the purpose of helping us to focus on our only hope of a truly fulfilled life through the freedom and forgiveness which Jesus Christ won for us at Easter.
To fail to reflect on the need for Easter is to fail to celebrate the significance of Easter.
As leaders of your communities, I encourage you to consider your humanity with all that it entails. Yes, celebrate your successes. But during this upcoming period of Lent, take time to reflect on how God is calling you to identify those parts of your life which need his grace, his forgiveness, his renewal. It is as we reflect upon our need for help that we become open to the Spirit’s growth.
In my trouble I called to the Lord.
I cried out to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my call for help reached his ears.