“Nothing is more practical than

finding God, than

falling in Love

in a quite absolute, final way.”

  • Pedro Arrupe, SJ

The holiest season of the year is upon us and we are being offered something that is beyond measure.

There have been too many Lenten seasons where I get more concerned about the list of things I am giving up or the things that I have added to my spiritual life rather than actually just focusing on my relationship with Jesus as a real living person.

I want this Lent to be different –and it can be, for all of us, when we  come to see that it is all about intimacy.

When I have become too wrapped up in the offerings I am making and the prayers I am saying they become the end goal rather than the deepening of my relationship with God.

Sacrificing the dessert and adding more time in prayer will only become nourishing to my soul if I keep Jesus at the center. Keeping him as the “why” behind our Lenten practices allows them to be intentionally loving actions instead of hoops to jump through. Then Lent risks becoming about achieving goals rather than falling in love.

It seems to me that this is the reason for placing ashes on our foreheads on the first day of Lent. I often find it to be so easy to be centered on Jesus on Ash Wednesday. Everything is new and my commitments are fresh in my mind and heart. There is a spiritual adrenaline rush that we can receive when we truly enter into the first day of Lent. This year, however, I know I can do better in attempting to make everyday feel like Ash Wednesday.

I am not promoting a 40 day fast from meat and abstaining from major meals every single day. What I want to carry away from Ash Wednesday is the knowledge that the intimacy of Jesus’ agony on the cross and his eyes piercing forth from the light of the empty tomb are directed towards me at every single moment. In reflecting on my Lent of 2023, I can see that I was more focused on accomplishing things rather than deepening my faith.

Intimacy is not a feeling and it is not a reward for the holiest of saints. A deep relationship with Jesus Christ is not the maximum gift possible for the disciple, but the minimum necessary in order to understand Lent in particular and Christianity in general. But what is intimacy with the Lord?

Intimacy is about falling in love. It is not a feeling. It is not sentimental. It does not simply come and go. Intimacy revolves around a commitment to see the other as the One that loves me beyond anything I could ever imagine. Once that realization is made, intimacy allows us to rest in the truth that the Other sees me through and through.

Since this Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season, begins on Valentine’s Day this year, I think recalling this saint’s life can help answer the question for us. Valentine was a third century priest who would marry couples in secret in order to protect them from the immoral law put into place by Emperor Claudius II. The emperor thought this law would help him gain more soldiers in his army.

Valentine must have been convinced that the intimacy between a man and a woman who desired to give themselves completely in marriage was worth risking his life for. He must have known and experienced the love of Christ so profoundly that he knew that marriage was a way for these couples to experience His love in a similar manner. Ultimately, Valentine suffered martyrdom for his actions. He sacrificed his life for intimacy.

This Lent we can offer our sacrifices for love like Valentine did. IF we want to be like him it will take preparation and consistency. At the beginning of my prayer time, if I take stock of the fact that it is a Person inviting me to spend more time with Him – I simply am more attentive to His Presence. Every Friday this Lent, when I have to refrain from eating meat or if I choose to fast in between meals I want to reflect on that same reality.

My hope is that this Lent can be different. My hope is that St. Valentine can be the patron of my Lent. My prayer is that intimacy may find all of us, because without a deep relationship with Christ our actions become empty and more than anything else I know I need to be filled up by Him. I need to fall in love again.


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