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Rose Petals and Ashes: Weekly Message for 2-13-18
Dear Digital Pilgrim, pax Christi:
This year Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day coincide. Just a coincidence? I doubt it. As the Catechism reminds us, “The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history” (CCC 303). So nothing is random with God. He has something to tell us through this coincidence. What is it? Maybe he is hoping to receive a Valentine from each one of us.
I am not making this up. We are all familiar with how Valentine’s Day gifts use hearts: a heart on a card, a candy in the shape of a heart, roses the color of blood to symbolize the depths of one’s passionate love… It’s all about the heart. And that’s how the liturgy for this first day of Advent begins. The Lord tells us in Ash Wednesday’s First Reading: “…return to me with your whole heart…” (Joel 2:12). Do you hear the Lord’s plea? He doesn’t want us seeking our happiness where it can’t be found! He doesn’t want us investing our love in things that end up perishing like ashes – passing pleasures, popularity and the approval of others, wealth and worldly success and the “right” car or home or promotion. He wants us for himself, because he knows that living in a deep, intimate communion with him is the only way to find our heart’s true desire: “Find your delight in the Lord, who will give you your heart’s desire” (Psalm 37:4).
Lent is an invitation from the Church for us to stop, quiet down, and look calmly and deeply at the state of our hearts as we prepare for the grace-filled days of Holy Week. Our new Lenten Retreat Guide, Teacher and Lord: A Retreat Guide on the Last Supper, could be a useful tool for you to make that happen. But don’t forget about all the other Lenten Retreat Guides still available, they can be helpful too: Father of Mercies, The Faithful Steward (on St Joseph), The Widow’s Might (that’s not a misspelling), Trouble with Trust (one of our most popular), and The Colors of the Cross (one of my personal favorites).
Our hope and prayer is that resources like those Retreat Guides will continue to help you find fresh and encouraging ways to go deeper in your friendship with Jesus Christ, a friendship more beautiful than roses and much, much more lasting than ashes.
God bless you!
Fr John Bartunek, LC