Musings on Lent: It’s All About LOVE
It’s been over a year now since first reports of Covid-19 virus allegedly came out in Wuhan China, and became a pandemic with the rest of world still currently being ravaged by it. It was during the month of February last year when the world felt this dreadful global health crisis, and where eveyone faced and witnessed this great challenge of our time. This Covid-19 pandemic taught us some lessons, made us realize how unpredictable our lives can be. Some of us thought that we have been slightly shaken to remind us of what have we forgotten, and to reflect on what have we become during the past years. Throughout these challenges, most of us turned to God for the end of this pandemic, for wisdom and comfort, for physical and spiritual healing, and for forgiveness and repentance of our transgressions. Thankfully, we are given some hope this year, by the grace of God, vaccines are already available in some places to prevent everyone from getting infected. We are given another chance to start anew and change the not-so-good things we did and the way we live, for the betterment of ourselves and the society as a whole.
The month of February is labeled as the love month of the year because of Valentine’s day which we just celebrated on the 14th, few days ago. Today (February 17th) is Ash Wednesday, the start of the period of conversion, fasting, penance and prayer, which are the basic disciplines of the Lenten season. While Valentine’s day and Ash Wednesday may have differences and similarities depending on one’s perspective, what’s good to know is that both occasions have a common ground in LOVE.
As followers of Christ, these two events may actually lend some real meaning to what truly LOVE is, to reflect on where our hearts should focus on. Who knows, having Valentine’s day and Ash Wednesday (the start of the Lenten season) on the same month could be a blessing in disguise. It could serve as a reminder to us that instead of utilizing the time for worldly things, for our personal interests, we could reflect more on the sacrifices of Jesus Christ on earth because of His great love for us. It is during Lent when we are given the opportunity to reconnect with God and to focus our hearts on Him and not so much on those things which pull us away from Him. You see, Lent is not just about fasting from food and other material things but also fasting from committing sin.
LENT is all about LOVE because Jesus Christ’s passion and death on the cross is actually God’s greatest love for all of us. Lent reminds us to look after the God who makes love possible and fosters it. Lent is love because it gives us the chance to walk with Jesus not only for a period of 40 days but maybe more, when we decide to change and choose the right path for good. And when we have decided to follow the footsteps of Jesus in response for His love for us, then we become more attuned to imitating Him by doing good works. Our conviction to follow the righteous path will lead us to better understand that life in this world does not only involve ours but of others too, especially if we learn to love others, be able to share what we have with them and ultimately change their wayward lives too.
LENT is all about LOVE because it is about our God who has done so much for us, far greater than human love which we obtain from and share with our loved ones. But God’s love for us is never-ending, it’s persistent and shatterproof regardless of how many times we have fallen. And that is why Lent is Love because we feel it, we understand clearly the message being sent to us especially when see the look of love on the face of the crucified Jesus. When we gaze at Him, it is as if He’s pleading to us to turn back to Him. And when God’s message of love sets in our hearts, it paves the way to open up and share our hearts to others, even to those who aren’t friendly to us!
LENT is all about LOVE because this is a special time for us to show our love for our Creator, how much we love Him. When we decide to deepen our faith in God and be more closer to Him (after turning our backs from Him), we start not only to give things up, but also the worldly acts and behaviours we enjoy and comfortable with, which makes our life happier and healthier. Lent is Love when we offer to God our prayers, our fasting, mortification, acts of charity and service to others with the end view of loving Him more and embracing the life that He wishes for us.
Pope Francis in one of his messages also acknowledges that Lent is LOVE because Lent is a “time of grace, a time for letting God gaze upon us with love and in this way change our lives. We were put in this world to go from ashes to life.” The Holy Father stated that the placing of ashes on the forehead is a reminder that although humanity is merely dust in the earth, it can also become something wondrous “if we allow ourselves to be shaped by the hands of God.” “More often than not, though, especially at times of difficulty and loneliness, we only see our dust. But the Lord encourages us: In his eyes, our littleness is of infinite value. So, let us take heart: We were born to be loved; we were born to be children of God”. He further encouraged us to allow ourselves to be loved, so that we can give love in return, allow ourselves to stand up and walk toward Easter for us to experience the joy of discovering how God raises us up from the ashes. The Holy Father impressed upon us the merits of prayer, almsgiving and fasting because all these will pull us away from self-absorption, and for us to be more concerned and sensitive to the needs of our brothers and sisters. When we’re too preoccupied with our own stuffs and get burned out at the end of the day, we tend to forget what is more essential to the naked eye, the love of our families, the people we meet, and that of God’s . But when our hearts start to set aflame with God’s love, we can recover and truly savor the real meaning of joy and happiness.
As we celebrate Ash Wednesday today with the ashes crossed in our foreheads (some of us may not be able to have ashes on our head because of this pandemic), it is but a clear reminder for us that indeed LOVE is the greatest gift of God to everyone. Lent is LOVE because we realize the importance of our hearts, where we feel the LOVE that we have for God who paid a huge price for our redemption.
Today, we are reminded to repent from our sins and believe in the Word of God and that the blessed ashes that will be sprinkled (instead of the cross mark on the foreheads, for safety purposes) on the heads of the churchgoers symbolize that we came from dust and to dust we shall return. Please note that Ash Wednesday (same with Good Friday, and all Fridays of Lent) is a fasting and abstinence day. It means everyone of age 14 and up must abstain from consuming meat. And on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, everyone of age 18 to 59 must fast, unless exempt due to usually a medical reason.
As to Valentine’s day, we celebrated it by hearing mass online and by saying our daily prayers to God, and after that, we just had a simple meal at home. The month of February is traditionally dedicated to the Holy Family. We should try to imitate the example of the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary and Joseph), their perfect dedication to God, by making Him as the center of our hearts and homes.Amen.
A Blessed Lenten season to you all.
(p.s. This article is also published by the same author in a Filipino Catholic magazine abroad. Featured photo ctto. Thanks)