Connecting Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day and Systemic Change

At first glance, it may seem like quite a stretch to connect Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, and Systemic Change. But hear me out. Actually, it is not that hard.

In a nutshell …

Lent is about removing the scales from our eyes so we can be more aware of the love God has for us in Easter joy.

Valentine’s Day is a day focused on celebrating an awareness of loving and being loved, not unlike celebrating Baptism and Eucharist.

Systemic Change can be viewed as Valentine’s Day and Lent on steroids– removing the obstacles that prevent people on the margins from experiencing belonging, and positively fostering the awareness of being fully alive.

It all rests on learning to see more deeply… changing lenses.

Changing lenses

Lent is not about giving up. It is about waking up to the mystery of God’s love. If there is any giving up it is getting rid of the things that put us to sleep and seeing God’s love in our daily life.

Beneath its commercial veneer, Valentine’s Day is about expressing love and celebrating the gift of love received. What is love? As Maria Shriver put it in a recent column, “I feel loved when I feel seen. I feel loved when I feel heard. I feel loved when I feel safe, secure, and understood.”

Self-absorption is embedded in our systems to the degree that often we can not even recognize it. Systemic change unmasks the self-absorption of Original Sin. Systemic change seeks structures that promote what St. Irenaeus describes as the glory of God: “The human person fully alive.” Popes from Paul VI to Francis speak of “integral human development.”

Connecting the dots in our lives


  • What do I need to do to wake up to God’s love in my life?
  • How can I celebrate the deeper meaning of Valentine’s Day and the exchange of gifts of love?
  • “What must be done” to ensure societal structures modeling the vision of Matthew 25… I was alienated and you embraced me?

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