Posted on: 2016-02-17

Sure you missed it

It was a very special Valentine this year when February the 14th came in the Lenten period and on a Sunday as well. Such confluence of spiritual and amorous emotions is not usual. It may be difficult for some people to see the self-giving component in the Valentine celebration yet it is one thing the Lenten spirit would favour. Many people think only of the gifts they might receive from their fans, friends, lovers and admirers like flowers, chocolates, jewels, cars or even trips out. The news is that Lent is actually written right in Valentine if you look at it more closely, yes, embedded right in it. That is the simple truth. No apologies, for there are no coincidences with Almighty God. Nothing escapes God's attention and so there must be a useful lesson to learn in that very fact. The spirit of Christianity is always about self-giving and love. That is the message which the period of Lent seeks to cultivate in our minds. That is exactly what the Holy Saint Valentine did with his entire life.

Contemporary valentines

Those who  live the true spirit of Valentine are still among us. It is just that they are not  recognized and they do not flaunt their worth either. I often think about the love of mothers for their children, giving and giving selflessly, hardly placing any premium on what they get back for their effort. I think about the true missionaries who came to us, some of them just as poor as we are, who built our churches, our schools, hospitals and brought education to the remotest places so that multitudes may be educated, liberated and  empowered. How about those who lay down their lives so that rights of peoples can be guaranteed and protected?  Do we not identify with Mother Teresa's witness or that of Martin Luther King, spearheading the black rights movement? How about our own heroes in Africa, many of them unrecognized, who ignored at great risk to their security and comfort, fought for independence and nationhood values. How about our families who brought us up or others who adopt abandoned or orphaned children? Think of doctors, nurses, businessmen, teachers, civil servants and labourers who do their work diligently, making little profit and refusing to swindle others?  How about priests, nuns, social workers etc, who give hope to the totally hopeless? How about soldiers, policemen and other security agents who risk their lives to stop terrorists and other criminals from killing innocent people. All  these people whose commitment involves their whole life certainly deserve a place on the list of Valentine celebrities.

Reclaiming the love space

All so different from contemporary love-style whereby in one hour or half of meeting on the internet, people can decide to marry or cohabit, just for pleasure, no strings nor bonds involved. My own Valentines resonate with the divine love of Jesus who himself inspired Saint Valentine. Indeed, to be genuine, authentic  valentine celebrations must somehow resonate with the life of Jesus Christ. In other words, true valentine celebrations are really a call to holiness. "Love one another as I have loved you" I agree with people who have come to the conclusion that Valentine should not be an annual celebration but an everyday one. That cannot be difficult for Christians who know their onions. In the Catholic Church every Mass is really a valentine celebration. It is the love-sacrifice of Christ who gave himself as food for the souls of his disciples. Take seriously those words of Jesus, uttered by the priest at Mass and you will understand."Take this, all of you and eat it, this is my body which will be given up for you". Reflect on the intensity of the love that makes that happen. No wonder that many incredible hymns of love have been composed around the Mass. Those who love Jesus would not mind hearing them again and again: "Oh how I love Jesus , because he first loved me... I am so glad that Jesus loves me, Jesus loves even me...Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all, how can I love thee as I ought.... in those hymns, the deepest emotions of genuine love lay embedded, waiting to be exploited.

Lifelong effect

So, such is the lent in Valentine, that wherever there is true love, self sacrifice also thrives.  Thus the Scripture of Valentine Sunday reminds us of Jesus, though being the Son of God, led by the Hoy Spirit to be tempted in the desert. Were it not for love, he had no need to be tempted for he had no sin. Knowing however that we human beings are prone to temptation he traveled the same road to show us by example how to cope with temptation. True lovers do not merely point out the way, they travel  with the beloved. They first feel  the heat of the kitchen before asking others to face the grill. Jesus by that method  gave us the big clue to coping with temptation, to rely on God's word. Lured to lust, goaded to greed and pushed to pride by Satan, he taught us: "Man does not live by bread alone...you shall not put the Lord your God to the test..." This is also the secret of self-mastery, for he who does not first master himself cannot conquer, never mind change the world. To master the self is the calling of all Christians.  The Valentine way with "Lent" in it is the way to accomplish it.