By Mark Thomas Manalang

LOVE AND LENT. Parishioners receive flowers from Fr. Jason Laguerta (right), the parish priest of Sta. Maria Goretti Parish on UN Avenue, Manila after the Ash Wednesday Mass. This year, the celebration of Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14 coincided with Ash Wednesday, the start of the 40-day Lenten season for Catholics. (PNA photo by Mark Manalang)

MANILA – A priest called on the Catholic faithful to take Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, which both fell on Feb. 14 this year, as an opportunity to open their hearts to God and repent for their sins.

In his homily at the Sta. Maria Goretti Parish in Manila, parish priest Fr. Jason Laguerta cited the common connection between Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, being occasions for remembrance to reflect inward to one’s heart.

He reminded everyone that good deeds and sacrifices are not only meant to keep appearances but performed wholeheartedly as a penance to cleanse one’s heart and soul.

Laguerta, citing the Gospel of Matthew, said Catholics are urged to observe fasting, give alms, and perform other good deeds without trumpeting these in public as ways to offer their hearts to God who sees past outward behavior.

He also reminded devotees that the ash placed on their foreheads are reminders of the dirt and sinfulness in their hearts and the need for reconciliation, repentance, and conversion.

“Sa araw ng Valentine’s Day, sinasabi rin sa atin ng simbahan, balikan mo ang iyong puso. Linisin mo ang iyong puso. Ibalik mo siya sa Panginoon (On Valentine’s Day, our church tells us, reflect on your heart. Have a clean heart. Return to God’s fold). Turn away from sin and surrender your heart to Jesus in repentance. Iyon ang pinaka-puso ng Kuwaresma (That is the heart of Lent),” he added.

The parish distributed flowers to churchgoers after the Ash Wednesday Mass and encouraged everyone to practice fasting and abstinence. (PNA)