This “Ash Wednesday Valentine’s Day” gives us an opportunity to reconsider what love is, and what love is not.
For a Christian, the rock band Boston got it right in 1976: Love is “more than a feeling.” We doubt the authenticity of the Kay Jewelers, empty-shelled love that marks the bourgeois celebration of modern-day Valentine’s Day. Christian love is less about feeling and more about action. It’s gritty. It’s messy. It hurts. In fact, we distrust a love that doesn’t suffer and costs nothing. Paul puts this reality simply in his letter to the Corinthians. He tells us that a love only spoken, but not acted upon, is as worthless as a “clashing cymbal,” while a love that’s performed in deed “always perseveres.”
In short, Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent is the ideal antidote to Valentine’s Day exuberance. The very first act of Lent reveals this reality. By receiving and wearing the ashes formed into a sign of the cross on their foreheads, Christians are making the bold claim that we believe in a love that loves so deeply that it is willing to suffer and even die for another….
Ash Wednesday and the subsequent Lenten season then is a time to learn how to love again. This can go beyond creed or faith. It is an invitation to everyone who wants to find the fullest measure of living. Now is a good time to ask ourselves what we can give up this season to enrich our sense and practice of agape. In doing so, we can find a new experience of love that can make us whole and can set us free.