Posted by: dowsmallgroups | 01/03/2013

A new heart create in me, O Lord

St ValentineIn mid-February, the shop windows were emblazoned with signs reminding us to purchase valentines for our loved ones.  Being most commonly referred to as ‘Valentine’s Day’, the story of St. Valentine, a young Roman soldier who was martyred for his faith seems now pretty much forgotten.  Yet, with all of these references to love on every corner and the surprising news about our much beloved Holy Father – Pope Benedict XVI who stepped down yesterday (28 Feb) from the See of St. Peter – his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, God is Love (“DCE”) came to mind. I thought it would be rather timely reading for Lent, in particular,  Part II entitled, Caritas – the Practice of Love by the Church as a “Community of Love”.

Through Lent, we attempt to refocus, to convert our hearts and minds in preparation for the renewal of our baptismal vows during the Holy Saturday vigil. Although this “radical reorientation” may seem to be an intensely private matter, it is not solely of our own doing or for our own benefit. Through our Lenten observances: prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we ask God for his grace – his blessing “to harmonize our hearts with Christ’s heart and to move them to love [our] brethren as Christ loved [us] (DCE 19).

In the rush to purchase that special card for a loved one, St Valentine’s martyrdom is generally forgotten. Similarly,  the intimate link between faith and charity seems rather obscure, the latter becoming simply  a matter of good citizenship -of writing a cheque for a favourite charitable cause.  In his first encyclical, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on Holy Scripture to remind us of the essence of  our faith: ‘love of neighbour, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual’ and ‘as a community ’ (DCE 20). Underlining the communal nature of our faith as lived by the early Christians (refer Acts 2:44-5), he made clear that almsgiving is by no means third and least of our Lenten observances. Together the proclamation the word of God, the celebration of the sacraments, and the exercise of charity are indispensable parts of our very beings as Christians and members of the Church. This Lent, we ask our Lord for a new heart. (Eze 36: 26)

This blog entry was contributed by Margaret Wickware

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