Today’s author is Debbie Jorgens, Prince of Peace’s Director of Visitation and Congregational Care.

Today is Ash Wednesday. And in case you need reminding, today is also Valentine’s Day. It’s not often these two observances  coincide. It happened just three times in the 1900’s, and the same will be true of this century. They converged in 2018 and will fall on the same day again in 2029. And that will be it until the next century.

I recently stumbled across an article regarding the “quandary” in which many Christians presumably find themselves today,  February 14th. What’s a person to do given that it is both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day? “It’s the beginning of Lent, so I should fast,” one woman noted. “But then I won’t be able to indulge in a special Valentine’s dinner or those delectable desserts!”

I confess that I’m not very sympathetic to this “quandary.” If one of your Lenten disciplines is fasting, then why not just indulge a day early? Besides, indulgence is the very essence of Shrove (or Fat) Tuesday! In any event, those special dinners and delectable desserts combined with boxes of chocolates, bouquets of roses and a variety of other gifts make Valentine’s Day one of the priciest holidays in the United States. In fact, the National Retail Federation predicted that Americans will spend a staggering $25.8 billion on it this year. Love, it would seem, comes at a cost.

Whether it’s love between spouses, parents and children, siblings or friends, there is always a price to be paid for love. And money is just part of the equation. There’s the investment of time and energy, the willingness to be vulnerable, to take a risk, to make sacrifices, to acknowledge that your heart may be broken when the relationship ultimately comes to an end, one way or another. The cost can indeed be heavy. And yet, what is the alternative?

During this Lenten season, as we prepare to hear the story of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, we’ll be invited to consider the cost of following Jesus and the joys and challenges inherent in the journey. And today, Christians around the world will be marked with ashes as a sign of our mortality. But that sign will also serve as a reminder of our belovedness because it will be in the form of a cross, pointing to the One who loved the world so much that he gave his very life for its redemption. It puts this Valentine’s Day in a whole new light, doesn’t it?

We give you thanks for the gift of love, O God. Teach us to love one another, and give us courage to be faithful followers of Jesus, whatever the cost. Amen.