By Father Rich Jones
Someone sent me a Valentine’s Day card that captures the celebration’s origin as a saint’s day:
God Bless Your Valentine’s Day—A Day of blessings filled to the brim, a day of good things that come from Him. A day of beauty, a day of grace, a day of sunshine on your face. A day that keeps you in peace and rest, a day that brings you all God’s best. Wishing you a day overflowing with all the love God holds in His heart for you! Happy Valentine’s Day.(dayspring.com)
That’s a thoughtful and appropriate valentine for a priest, but it’s a message that all of us need.
Most people’s attitudes toward St. Valentine’s Day are wrapped up in its secular version as a celebration of romance. Some people love it, plan for it, and spend lots of money on it. Others shrug it off as just another day of the year. Still others hate the idea of a made-up holiday that promotes romance and shopping.
Regardless of our feelings about February 14th, we should celebrate love every day of the year. It’s too easy to take our loved ones for granted. I hope and pray that you take time daily to notice and appreciate the people you love. Don’t let a day go by without saying or doing something to let them know how important they are to you. That’s a big part of what it means to be a Christian.
The Christian life is a story of love, from Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem to His death on Calvary. In the heart of Jesus, we find pure, humble, generous, and faithful love. His teachings come from a place of grace—unmerited, undeserved, unearned, and unconditional love. Every word that Jesus spoke and every deed He performed invite each and every human being to join in the community of love that begins in Church and will end gloriously in a new heaven and a new earth.
The magna carta of this community – of the Kingdom of God – is found in the Beatitudes — Matthew 5:1-12 and Luke 6:20-26. They shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life.
They are paradoxical promises that sustain hope amid tribulations. There are at the heart of Jesus’ teachings and reveal his face, character, and personality. Jesus lived the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,” said the One who forgave his killers from the cross.
Jesus’ message is counter-cultural and always will be.
A life of faith is in radical contrast to the values of the world, which prize material wealth, status, and strength. Affirmation can be a drug; money can be a god, and control can be addictive. Against this, Jesus stresses that our prime concern must be for those most in need of God’s love, care, and compassion—namely, the poor, the hungry, the weeping, and the persecuted people. When we trust in God for everything, every day, and in every way, we experience the height and depth of spiritual maturity.
The Beatitudes are not just for canonized saints like Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Thomas More, Oscar Romero, or Francis of Assisi, but for all of us. The challenge of faith is to trust in an unseen God to fulfill the promises of the Beatitudes.
We trust in the Lord by choosing to be poor in spirit in some way and to live below our means instead of above our means. We trust the Lord when we choose not to live for maximum pleasure but for maximum holiness. We trust the Lord by choosing to weep for our sins and the sufferings they have incurred on others. We trust in the Lord when we choose to live for the Lord courageously, radically, and totally, and even when it hurts, and we are hated for the Gospel’s sake.
Like Jesus’ disciples, we are called to sacrifice our own priorities, agendas, values, and will, and to replace them with the priorities, values, and will of God. Why fritter away your precious time on things that pass so quickly– success, wealth, status, security? We will never find our God-given purpose in those things.
So don’t set your heart on the things of this world. Instead set your heart on knowing, loving, and doing God’s will. In this, you will discover the life God made you for, a life that is abundant and eternal in its blessings. You will experience the eternal love of God, a love that you share with others. That’s the real message of those Valentine hearts.
This Valentine’s Day may Jesus give us all the richness of his mercy, the joy of his love, and the peace of his friendship. Happy Valentine’s Day!