It is by happy coincidence that while the secular world celebrates Valentine’s Day, the Church celebrates the First Sunday of Lent because both feasts illustrate the presence of God’s love in the world. Valentine’s Day commemorates the love that two people have for one another and Lent reminds us of the love that God has for his people. Both of these “loves” are rooted in the person of Jesus Christ.
The life of Jesus shows us how much God cares for us. In turn, we are invited to share that love with those around us. When two people are committed to one another, they will do anything for each other—even to the point of death. In other words, love entails sacrifice. If we truly love someone, we are willing to sacrifice ourselves in order that they might have life.
While some may think this to be this rather strong language, consider what happens when we love someone: We compromise; we put their feelings, wants, needs, and desires first. In turn, they (hopefully) do the same for us. However, sometimes the relationship is unequal (parent and child, for example). Even then, we sacrifice our time, our energy, our money, our needs, so that the more vulnerable person might have a good life. But the point is not how much we sacrifice or compromise, but that we put the other person first.
This is the point of the temptations that Jesus endured. Jesus so loved his Father that he was willing to forego food, wealth, and power in order to remain faithful to his commitment and mission. What are we willing to give up in order to be faithful to those we love? When we truly love someone, we want only the best for them and we make a conscious decision to help them to become the person God has called them to be, even if it means that they increase and we decrease.
May the beginning of our Lenten journey challenge us to become more Christ-like and more loving not only to those who are significant in our lives, but to everyone we meet.