This year, Divine Providence is sending us a special message. On the same day in which the world, invoking the memory of St. Valentine, has its own feast of love, the Lord places the tremendous day of penance, prayer, fasting, and renunciation – Ash Wednesday.
Perhaps Our Lord especially desires the world’s attention now, so He may tell the world how much He desires to give us His love. This week, we will all feel the conflict between what is normal on these two feasts – the day of gifts and candy and earthly love, clashing with the day of fasting and renunciation and divine love.
First, let us consider. What is the central message of the Gospel? It is that God loves us and desires to draw us into His love. And what is the first thing we must do, in order to receive His love, and to allow ourselves to be drawn into communion with Our Lord?
When St. John the Baptist began his preaching ministry, he first said one thing. When Our Lord began His public ministry, He first said the same one thing. St. Peter, also, when he summed up his first sermon at Pentecost, said the same one thing. And what is that one thing?:
“Repent,” “Repent and believe,” “Repent and be baptized.”
Love begins with the renunciation of sin. When the Kingdom of Heaven broke upon the world, and the message of God’s love for mankind was delivered, the first demand was that we renounce sin.
Our Lord said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Embracing the Gospel requires a renunciation of worldly concerns and attachments.
Earthly love can be good, and it can be disordered. Ice cream and candy are good, but prayer and fasting are better. This year, the Church, our great Mother, demands that we fast and deny ourselves on Valentine’s Day. Thus, we should see in this that Our Lord Himself is sending us a message:
Let your hearts be purified – turn to Me and I will give you My love. Come before Me with prayer and fasting, deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow Me. Do not have two masters. If you love Me, you will keep this commandment. You are my friends, for whom I hold the greatest love, if you keep my commandments.
Take this clash of calendars, that of the world and that of the Church, as a call from Christ. Choose what love is truly about. Instead of giving treats and candies to your loved one, set aside time to pray and fast together with your loved one – share heavenly treats. Let your earthly loves be put into their proper place by a free and full embrace of divine love, the love which endures and brings the eternal joys.
 Matthew 6:24
[The featured cookies are really good. They will probably be in the Retreat Box. Just sayin'.]
[music by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. Used with permission]