St. Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday claimed the space in the heart of Christians this year. Valentine’s Day has been claimed by market forces. For us, it emphasises the central importance of authentic self giving love in our lives. Both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday claim the symbol of the human heart as the seat of the love and the desires that give direction to our lives.
The Prophet Joel tells us in the Frist Reading in the Mass for Ash Wednesday “Now—it is the Lord who speaks— come back to me with all your heart, …. let your hearts be broken not your garment torn”. The God of tenderness and compassion calls us to turn our hearts towards him. “God is Love”. Our hearts will be forever restless until they rest in the heart of God.
Our fundamental call as disciples of Jesus through our Baptism is to love as he loves. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples by your love for one another”. This love is tough; it is self giving for the wellbeing of those in need. All too many people in our society feel starved of love. They feel lonely, excluded, unwanted. There is an ever increasing number of people living as lone individuals, isolated from any sense of belonging to a community. Increasingly in our society we refer to human beings as individuals and no longer as persons. Persons are characterised by their relationships, while individuals tend to isolation.
Love builds relationships, reconciles those at variances, be it in marriage, family or community. Love enables us to build bridges and welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty. The response to the call of scriptures during lent is this; with a humble and contrite heart to love tenderly, act justly and walk humbly with Our God”.
Only love can heal the wounds of our society and our world. Our work as followers of Jesus is to build a culture of love, a ‘civilization of love’.