Happy Valentine’s Day and oh yes of course, it is also Ash Wednesday. But we don’t really wish each other Happy Ash Wednesday. Maybe, we should, I believe.

For many Christians today presents a paradox. It is a day where two celebrations collide. One is given to the celebration of romantic love, eros, which has become overly commercialised and sentimental. The other celebration marks the start of a period of fasting and self denial and a sober reminder that we humans are dust and to dust we shall return.

The Christian faith does not intend to kill our joy and we are to celebrate the joy of relationships, particularly as on this day, the love of a spouse or partner. We deny ourselves for the sake of the other and express our lives in the giving and receiving of gifts. But human love is above all a shadow, an imperfect reflection of divine love.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of a season that takes us on a journey to the heart of love. A love with all the superficiality removed. Love in all its purity. We see this love must clearly in the sacrificial life of Jesus as he goes the way of the cross. Our of surrender and self renunciation we see in Him authentic love, love that is stronger than death, love that is unquenchable, life giving love. Here is love seen in unbelievable generosity and unbearable cost.

As we enjoy today in the company of loved ones let us, above all, celebrate Ash Wednesday with our hearts and in our lives today by giving thanks and sacrifices to the one who first loved us, who gave his life as a sacrifice for us, Jesus Christ who with the Father be all glory now and to the ages of ages. Amen

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