Return to me with your whole heart

    February 14, 2024

    With apologies to romantics, there is something alluring about Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day.

    There is no burying the lede in today’s readings. The very first line sums up God’s desire: “Return to me with your whole heart.” With these words, we enter forty days of the Season of Lent, marked by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, to grow closer in love to God.

    In his Ash Wednesday homily for 2021, Pope Francis said, “Lent is a humble descent both inwards and towards others. It is about realizing that salvation is not an ascent to glory, but a descent in love.”

    Lent holds special relevance for Catholic Charities. We do not serve the poor and respond to those who are suffering in order to win praise, awards, or glory. Our faith compels us toward mercy and justice. Prayer sustains us. Generosity is our currency. And any who have ever consciously given time, attention, money, help, support, or care to a person in real and serious need knows it is they who are the true beneficiaries. We are hard-wired to love God, and how better to love God than by loving all that God loves: the poor, the broken-hearted, each other, all of creation.

    One of God’s most captivating qualities is how magnanimously intent God is that we grow in love of God by growing in love for others.

    May these forty days be replete with the blessings of reconciliation, generosity, service, prayer, forgiveness, peace, self-sacrifice, humility and love.

    Kerry Alys Robinson is President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA.

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