Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? -- Isaiah 58: 5-6 (NRSV)
There can't be a worse day to follow Ash Wednesday than Valentine's Day. What percent of fasts were broken today because someone forgot to look at the calendar?
"I'm giving up chocolate and smooching for Lent!" [twenty-four hours later] "Chocolate and kissing for Valentine's Day! God Loves ME!"
Or an even better question what percent of people looked ahead and said to themselves, "I want to give up something for Lent, but I know I'll be having fondue and smooches tomorrow, so I can't very well give those up, can I?"
First World Problems, I suppose.
Really, there is no better day to follow Ash Wednesday than Valentine's. At least for me, Valentine's ends up being one of the most self-less days of the year, maybe second to Mother's Day. This is a day when we forget about ourselves and focus on somebody else; a day when we are more concerned with giving an experience than receiving one; a day when the demonstration of love is most evident in the western world. What could be a better sign of the kingdom? What could be a better sign than the daughter who takes her mother out for brunch, the son who sends his parents tulips, the countless boyfriends who write trite but well-meant poetry and send stuffed bears to cubicles around the world? If you gave up five minutes of your coffee time or your video-game time or your any-kind-of-me time to give a happy express love to another person today, you have celebrated Lent.
I release you from your fast for today.
Some people once came to Jesus (rather indignantly, as, it seems, was usual) and asked him why in the world all the people around him weren't fasting. John (the Baptist)'s followers were fasting. The people who followed the church leaders were fasting. Why wouldn't those around Jesus. And he told them: "The wedding-guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they?" (Mark 2:19)
We don't fast when we should be celebrating. We don't fast on Sundays, and we don't fast when we should be celebrating.
So I release you from your fast, if only for a couple of hours. Go ahead, have a smooch.