Ash Wednesday at Austin Prep

Ash Wednesday at Austin Prep

Lent and Love

Are we here to celebrate Valentine’s day? No, sorry about that! We are here to celebrate Ash Wednesday. Now, the question is: is there any connection between Valentine’s day and Ash Wednesday? For me, there is some. In both cases, it is a question of love, of change and of commitment. As you know, it is easy to fall in love, but it is more difficult to stay in love, to commit oneself to a serious and long-lasting relationship. In order to stay in love, we need to make changes. Many people don’t stay in love, not because they are not good people, but because they do not want to change anything even though they are in a relationship which is by nature involved two people. Emily is a good person and Andrew is also a good person, but that does not mean they can form a happy couple. No one can really love another person if he or she does not want to change anything. Love is an exodus, a movement of getting out of oneself to listen to the desire of another person who is always different from oneself. The other is totally different from me, from my own knowledge and understanding. To know and to love someone, I need to get out of myself. This exodus can cause suffering, but it is the foundation of an authentic love.

For me, exodus is also our Lenten journey. During 40 days, we are invited to get out of ourselves to go to where God leads us, to go to where God talks to us, to go to where God reveals himself to us. We are to become the person God wants us to be but we cannot do it if we do not want to make changes. We cannot really love God if we do not commit ourselves to an ongoing conversion. Lent is a favored time for change and for transformation in our relationship with God and through him with others. I will talk about the meaning of our Lenten journey by using the word “ASH”: A for Awareness, S for Solution and H for Heart.


Self-awareness is important for the development of our identity. Self-awareness is also good for our relationship with God and with others. Self-awareness is not, however, possible without solitude. Lent is a good time for solitude. It is good for us to go to our inner room, close the door and pray to our Father in secret, as today’s Gospel invites us. Here is my suggestion for you: during Lent, spend some time with the Lord in silence, in a quiet place, in a Church, or in the chapel here on Campus. Sometimes, we need to fast from a noisy world, from unnecessary information of social media in order to deepen our relationship with God. This intimate relationship with the Lord is the foundation of our actions.


With God’s help, we can enter into the here and now of salvation. As Saint Paul said in today’s second reading, “now is a very acceptable time, now is the day of salvation.” Together, let us learn with Saint Augustine from his error in the past. We do not say, “Lord, give [us] chastity and continence, but not yet.” Instead, we should say, “Lord, give us chastity and charity here and now.” With such understanding, we do everything as if this Lent were our last one. We clean the house of our heart as if we’re doing it for the last time in our lives.


Someone once said, “the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.” God asks us to return to him with our whole heart, to make him the center of our lives. He asks us to rend our hearts, not our garments. He wants us to have a restless heart, as Augustine puts it. He expects from us a metanoia, a complete change of heart, a new sense of direction in our lives. He promises to give us back the joy of his salvation. A heartfelt feeling or a joyful life is an expression of salvation.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of our Lenten journey, of our love story with God. We are called to be aware of ourselves so that we may become more open to people and rely more on God’s grace. We are created for relationships. We cannot become ourselves without establishing relationships. I cannot become myself until you become yourself. I cannot become myself until God shows me my true self, hidden even from me. I must decide to do everything possible to improve my relationship with God as if it were my last Lent. I need to do everything as if I do it for the last time. And you, dear students, you need to study every day as if the final exams will take place the next day. It is my wish for you. It is your solution. Happy Ash Wednesday! Happy Valentine’s day!

Ash Wednesday at Austin Prep