Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

                           The penitential season of Lent is just around the corner, beginning on the                               26th with Ash Wednesday. Of course, Valentine’s Day also occurs in                                     February, a day commemorating our deep love for _____ (I’ll let you fill in                             the blank). I wonder what those decidedly different dates could possibly                               have in common?

On Ash Wednesday, our first reading will be from the Old Testament prophet Joel. This is how it begins: “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.”

The Lord calls you to “rend your hearts,” that is, tear them open. As I read those Words, I’m reminded of the popular Valentine’s Day symbol of a heart pierced by Cupid’s arrow.

Love can be painful sometimes. It’s painful if you love someone, and they don’t return your love. It’s painful when you love someone dearly, but they are separated from you by distance, or even death. It’s painful when you watch someone you love make mistakes and go down the wrong path. Love can be like an arrow to the heart.

Love was painful for Jesus, too. Jesus loved you so much that He was willing to die for you. On the cross, Jesus’ heart was pierced—not with Cupid’s arrow, but with a Roman spear. His blood was shed out of love for you.

It’s painful to think about what Jesus had to undergo. It’s not pleasant to hear of His suffering and death. Sometimes we want to just skip over Lent and Good Friday and go straight to Easter and the resurrection celebration.

But it is in this Lenten journey to the cross where Jesus teaches us what true love is all about. He teaches us to examine our lives and to see whether we have been loving towards all others, including even our enemies.

When we examine ourselves, we see our faults and failures only too clearly, and it causes us to weep and mourn and tear open our hearts out of grief. Yet Jesus does not leave our hearts torn open. On Ash Wednesday we will sing once again Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right Spirit within me.” Jesus takes your broken, empty heart, and gives you a new, pure, holy heart. He gives you a heart made whole by His love.

If you are looking for a new heart, a new love, the kind that only Jesus can give, join us once more, Wednesday evenings at 6:00, on this Lenten journey to the cross.

God’s richest blessings!

Pastor M. <t><

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