But this February Fourteenth offers all the rest of us believers a unique challenge. It is both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. Which will be most important? Will we choose chocolate or ashes? How might we reconcile the two?
Self-indulgence or fasting?
Self-absorption or self-denial?
And is this challenge even an issue for most people?
The Archdiocese of Chicago has stated that Lent is more important than candy hearts, and suggested that Catholics pick some other day for paper hearts and Cupid’s arrows.
A statement released by the Archdiocese explained that Catholics will not be dispensed from the laws of fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday, and suggested that we could celebrate Valentine’s Day on Feb. 13th, which is also Mardi Gras. Apparently, rescheduling gratification wins the day in Chicago.
But there is more to this challenge than what we eat. February 14th is an opportunity to look at how we each relate to ourselves. Is it with a sense of entitlement and over indulgence, or is it with patience, sacrifice and forgiveness? Our starting point as Christians is that each of us is created in the image and likeness of God. This is the deepest reality of every human person, as stated in Genesis 1:27. But as we continue reading the Book of Genesis, we also learn about the fall of the whole human race and about our individual and communal tendency towards doing evil, including various forms of self-abuse. In other words, we are made of precious metal, but we are tarnished.
The point is that we often lack the gifts of self-respect and moderation, as characterized by children of God. But when this happens we can ask Jesus for a new sensitivity to the Father’s handiwork within our hearts. We can seek the Holy Spirit for a willingness to be converted over and over. We can make new decisions to truly love ourselves as God’s temples. We can also ask the Holy Spirit for the wisdom to know when to enjoy ourselves and when to fast along with our sisters and brothers in Christ. And finally, we can consider asking this evangelizing question of others, “Are you celebrating Valentine’s Day or Ash Wednesday?” Then listen for clues of God’s presence in the other.