Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Well, it’s finally happened: Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day this year.
On one level, that’s funny! On another, it’s symbolic: The Church and the world are going in different directions when it comes to love.
The world proposes that all our desires are basically good. If that’s true, then promoting love means following our desires unreservedly. Honestly, that hasn’t led to greater happiness.
The Gospel proposes that sin also dwells in us. If that’s true, then promoting love includes disciplining our desires. Honestly, that leads to the Cross.
God is love. And Jesus is God in the flesh. That means Jesus is love incarnate. And love incarnate says: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” We hear that reading this week! Jesus shows us what love looks like and tells us what love requires.
Does the Gospel promote love? Yes! And therefore, so does the Church. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that what the world means by love and what the Gospel means by love are on different tracks. This year, that difference comes to a symbolic head. So, Feb. 14 is a great time to ask ourselves: What do we mean by love, and what does love entail?
Speaking of Ash Wednesday, are you looking for something more creative to do this Lent? Let me suggest something that builds on the “Disciples Make Disciples” document that I recently released.
We can take our lead from Psalm 119, which we read on Monday of this week. Psalm 119 is the longest psalm because it devotes eight verses to every letter of the Hebrew alphabet. But here’s the key: Every one of those verses, in one way or another, finds a way to mention and praise God’s law.
What if we were that deliberate? What if, on each of the 40 days of Lent, we found at least one occasion to mention and praise God, or Jesus, or the Bible, or Church, or something connected with the life of faith?
The Boy Scout slogan is “Do a good turn daily.” What if we set ourselves a task for Lent: Open the door for someone every day — the door of faith!
Disciples make disciples by opening the door of faith for people over and over. We aren’t forcing anyone through that door — that would be contrary to the nature of faith, which is always free. But we need to open the door.
Jesus says: “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” In other words, He is the door to heaven. If we love people, we need to open that door for them.