Ash Wednesday or Valentine’s Day?

This year is an odd phenomenon.  Ash Wednesday is the same day as Valentine’s Day.  Easter Sunday is also April Fools Day.  Depending on your perspective, there is some remarkable irony in the calendar.  You have a choice to live in the world of pop culture, or in the Kingdom of God.  I believe you must choose because you cannot balance both with complementary enthusiasm.

Let’s think this out.  Valentine’s Day is traditionally meant as a day of romantic love.  Never mind that Valentine was a Christian martyr and his canonization to sainthood has nothing to do with love or romantic desire.  On Valentines Day you are supposed to shower your romantic interest with flowers, candy, or a greeting card.  A dinner date would also be nice.

In contrast, Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting.  It is a day of penitence and humility.  The focus of Ash Wednesday is our own mortality and our need for God’s saving grace.

By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.”  Genesis 3:19

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, a six week season of fasting, prayer, study, and self-reflection.  As Episcopalians, we take Lent very seriously.  It culminates in Holy Week, which ends with the crucifixion.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday is no fool’s day!

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3: 3-7

So again, you have a choice.  You may live in the Kingdom of God or in the fool’s playground.  For me, I was never one for practical jokes.  I don’t find much humor in another person’s embarrassment or shame.  A child walking on the path trips and falls.  Other children immediately begin laughing, except a few who respond with concern and empathy.  It’s human nature.  Jesus died on the cross and the soldier’s mocked him.  Sin prevailed on that day.  Christ prevailed on Easter Sunday.  It is fair to say that Jesus Christ had the last laugh.

So I ask you, where will you be on Valentine’s Day?  I encourage you to visit Church for the Ash Wednesday service (11:30 AM or 7 PM).  You are not coming for any romantic motivation, but for ashes.  You are coming for prayer and penitence.  Come get yourself right with God.

In Peace, Paul+