It’s February, the month of Valentine’s Day AND the first day of Lent. They are both about “love” a word that is almost undefinable. We know it; we can feel it; but we can’t see or smell it; and we can’t adequately define it. First let’s look at Valentine’s Day, February 14. There are many tales about the origin of the day. In fact, it may have been inspired by two different men who were martyred by Claudius II. Not to mention, there are a dozen St. Valentines, plus a pope and a woman, Valentina, a virgin martyred in Palestine in 25 A.D. Take your pick! Regardless, St. Valentine is also the patron saint of beekeepers, epilepsy, the plague, fainting and traveling. We celebrate the role of romantic love, friendship, family, and community. Essentially hearts, flowers, and candy are the trappings of a day to be indulgent!

Love and Lent? Beginning on February 17 this year with Ash Wednesday, Lent runs through April 3, 2021. In my personal spiritual journey, Lent was always a dark time, when my friends gave up something. Often, they gave up chocolate, but not in the form of cake or cookies, only to gorge on a gigantic chocolate egg or rabbit on Easter. My generic Christian family did not emphasize giving up something or fasting. My memories are of Easter baskets, baby rabbits, chicks and eggs and, of course, the new Easter bonnet and white gloves. 

It has taken me well into adulthood to understand the Lenten road is not one to be suffered only to get to the joy of the risen Christ. After all, if I give up Starbucks or Facebook (or both), I’ll only return to business as usual after Easter. I have learned that it is a serious time to reflect on transgressions and be faithful to the Gospel. It is a time when we can see the expression of ultimate love in John 3:16. (KJV):  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  According to Eric Barreto in the Huffington Post, April 3, 2012, John 3:16 is perhaps the most ubiquitous verse from the Bible. It is not magic but rather contains a mystery and miracle. Barreto goes on to say:

 “…it is the very core of the good news. God’s love for us is both deeper and wider than we could even imagine. God’s love is at the very center of God’s action in the world. God’s love paved the path on the road to the cross. God’s love is the very guarantee of eternal life.”

I am not giving up anything for Lent. Instead, I am committing myself to cultivating peace, LOVE, gratitude, and forgiveness.

Pamela Kramer, Spiritual Growth

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