The Season of Love

By Father Ralph Somer

Lent is a season of purification and enlightenment that prepares people to celebrate Easter, which is a time of resurrection and new life. This year, Ash Wednesday happens to fall on Saint Valentine’s Day. So I’ve been reimagining the forty days of Lent as the “Season of Love!”
Some old-time Catholics might remember that decades ago Lent was seen as a time of severe self-denial. People considered “giving up” something to prove their self-control and their commitment to God. Some looked at Lent as a time to make a new set of resolutions after those of New Year’s fell apart.
However if we look at Lent as the season of love, then what we do during these holy days ahead will be more about joy than gloom. After all, what is love? It is effectively willing the good of the beloved. What does THAT mean? Consider a person you want to love. What is good for that person? How can you help make that good happen?
Here’s an example: A friend of yours has been overwhelmed with work, caring for children and caring for aging parents. What would be good for that person? How could you reach out to help? The three traditional actions of Lent can apply here: Prayer, Fasting & Good Works.
First pray. God knows what your friend needs. God knows your talents and abilities. When we pray God can reveal to us how our abilities can help the friend in need. And sometimes we will be surprised at what God inspires us to do. It might not be what we first thought of. Prayer certainly can unleash God’s creative spirit within us.
Next fast. Fasting involves giving up something. When we consider fasting to be an act of love, it ceases to be a mere test of will. We might give up our time – put down the phone, stop binge watching Netflix, etc. Who can we help by sharing our time? Consider that overwhelmed friend. Perhaps we could visit the parents once a week. Or offer to drive the kids to their various games and activities. Or order a meal for the family one night. We give up something in order to lovingly give to another.
And finally, doing good works. Traditionally this has involved almsgiving – sharing what we have with the poor. But poverty is more than financial need. Our good works can involve visiting a lonely person or including them in our activities. We can use the time or finances gained by our fasting in service of others. What else does our prayer inspire us to do for that overwhelmed friend?
By looking at Lent as a season of love, it opens us up to all kinds of meaningful and joy filled moments of care for others. Why not keep a little love journal where you can write down insights from prayer and the good deeds that fasting allows? Make a plan each week so that you have some love goals. Then put them into action.
This year remember: you can’t spell VaLENTines without Lent!

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