Lent: What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Jolly Hormillosa // Tales From the Trenches


February 14  

What’s love got to do with ‘em? he says and turns to me with a grin. I have just explained our Valentine’s Day plans to my eleven-year-old, i.e., going to church for Ash Wednesday.

He continued, “I mean, what’s L-O-V-E…got to do with the ashes? …and with penance?

Oh Son, a lifetime has taught this middle-aged mother a truth: We cannot know how much we are loved if we do not know from how far we have been rescuedfrom the very ashes

We cannot be ravished by the deep union with Christ whom we know we were made for, if we do not first realize our very identity can only start with him. Our longing for love begs first to be gathered up and found─found by his nail-scarred hands tenderly marking our foreheads with the honest truth of our origin and need, and then blessing us as we are led to take up our cross. 

Every one of us feels it in our bones─the ashes we are reduced to when our lives go up in smoke from the daily wounds of sin. It is a passionate love that starts with the cinders and invites us to himself. Only his look of love and his tender mark can soften our hearts in humble receptivity, making us brave enough to expose the burned areas of our hearts, hearts that have been ravaged by flames, leaving only ashes from the exploitation of sin─our own and those thrust against us. 

This beginning point of receiving the ashes is an essential place of honest, humble surrender. We are about to journey with Christ into the desert, into the places of our hearts that are desperate for renewal and resurrection. 

With the mark of ashes, we enter into prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Again, passionate love is at the heart of this epic call of Lent to overcome our flesh─the flesh that cries out in distress to be cured of listless oppression, to be set free, and to be filled with love. 

Penance was never meant to be a punishment, but a prescriptive to bring us back to passionate love. In small, chosen ways we seek to love Christ with our whole hearts, and to right our ailing tendency to distract ourselves with the pursuit of empty loves. Penance leads us back to authentic love when the distracting lies have crept in and wooed us away. Our conscience feels the filth of our garments and the weight of our toil like a cinder-maid trapped by the evil untruth of false identity.

It is not usually one big thing for us moms, but so many little things. We carry the weight of worry, of stress, of self-loathing, of independence as we try to get it all right in our own strength. All symptoms sprawling from the root sins of fear or pride.

We turn inward, and then paradoxically, turn outward to phantom-comforts. Habits and unbelief build up unconsciously, all while trying so hard to mom our little tribes. We find ourselves robbed of the joy of our identity and purpose. Penance is that passionate doorway to enter back in, to behold our merciful bridegroom and let him look upon us, soot and all. To allow his nurturing care, loving-kindness, and powerful love to consummate our hearts heroically with a love that has been uniquely prepared for each one of us from the foundations of the world. As we walk through that doorway of penitential prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, Jesus invites us to be swept off our feet again and again this Lent.

What’s love got to do with it? Everything Son. Everything.

Proclaim the Genius & Share!
  • Thank you. Being lead this Lent to allow my love for Jesus to give startling power to my prayer. These thoughts continued to stir that desire – “authentic, passionate love; and prescriptive penance”! Wow! Thank you.

    • What a beautiful desire, Marian, I love the way you said that. And yes, thank you Jolly for this beautiful reflection. May we all grow closer to God’s perfect love in this wonderful season.

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