← Back to News

What does love “got to do with” Lent?

Today, the season of Lent begins with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. It is also Valentine’s Day. These two events may seem contradictory, but actually Love has everything to do with Lent.

Lent culminates in Jesus’ act of selfless love and self-sacrifice. There is “no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Most of us won’t be called to give up our lives in a literal sense, but all of us are called to give up our lives in love for and service to God and to one another.

Lent is a truly a time set aside for us to examine ourselves and how we are living out our call. Thinking about Lent as a time to “give up” something simply as a penance is very limiting.

For example, suppose I decide to give up chocolate. There is nothing wrong with doing this as a sacrifice. However, it is much more meaningful if I think of it as, “I am giving up chocolate, because I know I need to lose weight, and my love of chocolate makes that difficult. I want to lose weight to take better care of myself, because I know I am a valuable person created in the image of God. I also want to be here and be well for myself and for those who love me.”

Another example is: “I’m going to give up spending so much time watching videos.” This means so much more if there is a positive component to it like, “I am going to spend time that I would have spent watching videos playing with my children (or volunteering serving meals at the homeless shelter, or spending time in prayer or visiting the sick or elderly.)”

Other options could be to replace gossiping with words that affirm others, or to choose the practice of “three good things” which is remembering three things that one is grateful for each day. All these examples are ways to show love. We know from Luke 37:38 that the love we give will come back to us multiplied: “give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.”

So, as we begin Lent on Valentine’s Day, consider that what may be done this Lent out of love can transform not only our season of Lent, but our lives and the lives of others.

Sister Joan Marie Stelman, OSB, senior vice president, mission integration