“Have pity on Your people, Lord. Do not let other nations despise us and mock us by saying, ‘Where is your God?’”
– Joel 2:17
Today’s Word is taken from yesterday’s liturgy – from the First Reading, to be precise. Yesterday the Christian world celebrated Ash Wednesday with its tradition of marking, with ash, the shape of a cross on the forehead or on the head of those attending church services – reminding us of Christ’s self-giving love for us. Yesterday also happened to be Valentine’s Day – the “feast of romantic love”.
Jesus said, “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:12), and yesterday’s Valentine’s day was a wonderful opportunity for each one of us to think of the Lord’s great love for us and to pledge ours in return, and to also demonstrate our love to our loved ones, pray for their intentions, promise fidelity to them, and thank them for their love in return.
In my part of the “Christian world”, all the restaurants and bars were full of people, young and older, celebrating Valentine’s day – it was a squeeze to get into the bars and impossible to find a table at the fully-booked restaurants.
In my part of the “Christian world”, the Catholic Churches were one third full of mainly older people (or two thirds empty, if you’re feeling pessimistic).
This overlapping of Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day (the last time it happened was in 1945) provided me with a sad reflection (and a confirmation, if one was needed) of the true state of the world around me, immediate and otherwise. This is why verse 17 from Chapter 2 of the Book of Joel, read out during yesterday’s Mass, struck me so much especially when I heard the question ‘Where is your God?’
Indeed, where in our heart have we placed the Lord our God?…that is if He is still our Lord, and if we have kept Him there at all!
Have pity on us, Lord.
Do not let us forget You or put You aside.
Restore and renew our love for You,
and increase and strengthen our faith
so that all will see that You are in our heart.