At the check-out counter I heard the cashier and the customer debating whether they would be going to church or going out on a date on Wednesday, February 14th.
There is the obvious connection of love when the beginning of Lent falls on Valentines Day. Christ’s death in our stead is love to the uttermost. Ash Wednesday, this year on February 14th, marks the beginning of a fast upheld by millions of Christians globally. It is a time of deep reflection and sincere repentance, leading up to Easter.
Valentines Day, on the other hand, is human silliness celebrated in candy, flowers and romance. This is not a moralistic judgment on romance or silliness. I am a great believer in celebrations. And silliness in relationships is sometimes exactly what is needed.
My choice of words and my point is rather about how very different the two days are.
When faced with the dilemma of starting a time of fasting, contemplation and repentance or going out on a romantic date, I offer this suggestion.
Our relationships are of utmost importance. Scripture tells us that we can give up everything and live in hardship but if we do not have love, we have gained nothing. We can be so spiritual that we are able to converse with angels in their own language, but if we do not have love, all our words are but irritating noise.
The point of Lent is Love Uttermost; a love that nurtures goodness and holiness and charity and selflessness.
Ash Wednesday and Valentines Day need not be an either/or. It can, in fact, be a time to examine the love we profess in our human relationships and find the many ways in which this love is “me-oriented”. Perhaps the 40 days of fasting during Lent can be one of fasting from our own selfishness, starting this Valentines Day.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” – 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7