[Homily: Valentines Day 2012 based on 1 John 4: 7-16 and John 15: 9-17]
There is no special Valentines’ Day liturgy today. There is no liturgical instruction to wear red. There is no injunction to devotional prayer in celebration of love.
For all intents and purposes, Valentines Day appears to be a secular celebration. After all, outside of Christmas, the most sanguine sales on gifts are on this day.
In fact, however, Valentines Day may have had a liturgical origin. Originally, this was the day in which the memory of the fourth -century Roman martyr, St. Valentine, was recalled and celebrated. Not much, however, was known of St. Valentine – other than that he and his companions shed their blood and died for the faith. St. Valentine’s feast, therefore, was suppressed. In its place is today’s celebration of the brothers, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the “apostles to the Slavs.”
Meanwhile, since the Middle Ages, and particularly with the works of the poet, Chaucer, this day became a day for celebrating romantic love. Love would be manifested through flowers, confectionaries and cards with hearts. The latter were called “valentines.” Valentines’ Day was the day to celebrate love.
Secular as this may seem, two thoughts emerge as we celebrate love on this day.
First, it is wonderful to be loved. It is wonderful to love. It is wonderful to be in love. But love is not just secular. Love is profoundly sacred. For God is love.
Our first reading states: “Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God. And everyone who loves is begotten of God. He [or she] who does not love, does not belong to God. For God is love” (Jn 4:7-8). Further on: “Herein is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us first and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. … God is love; and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (John 4:10. 16b).
On this day, therefore, celebrate love – genuine love. It leads you to God.
Secondly, love is a command. Love is a gift. It is a privilege. But at the same time it is not just optional. Jesus said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another” (Jn 15:12a). As his disciples, we are commanded to love one another. The quality of love that he sets is not mean. “Love…even as I have loved you” (Jn. 15:12b). As Jesus emptied himself in love on the Cross in love for us, so are we to love. Everytime we look at the crucifix before us, we see the standard of love to which we are commanded.
Therefore, on the Valentines’ Day, love!
In this context, I would like to encourage you to the following:
If you are in love, show it. Don’t be shy. Don’t hide it. Let it be known – with a bottle of wine, with a statement, “I love you..,” with a response, “I love you too,” with a hug, with a kiss. [Those who are not married may stop here…!]
If your love has passed through many trials and tribulations, yet endures, cherish it. Continue to care for it. Never take love for granted. Value it. Treasure it. Tell your loved one how much you treasure it. Tell your beloved how much you love him or her. Do not sin against your love. In love, be faithful.
If your love is waning, renew it. If you feel your love is diminished, exert effort to increase it. Look for ways to rejuvenate it – to make it young and fresh again. Go on an excursion. Take a trip. Go out to dinner. Write a letter, author a poem, compose a song. Care for yourself. Go out of your way to make yourself presentable. And desirable.
If your love is real, find God in it. Love manifests God in our world. God manifests himself in love. Marital love is precisely that: a sacrament of God’s presence, an ecstatic manifestation of God embracing us and ourselves embracing God in love!
Pray, therefore, that our love not be plastic, mechanistic, fake, insincere, manipulative, selfish. Pray that our love be genuine, faithful, pure, constantly alive, interesting, compelling, self-giving, so profoundly human, that is divine. For God is love. And Divine Love became flesh.
Why am I telling you all this? Because this is what Jesus told us. He said, “I have told you this: so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11).
In the end, there is no need for any special Valentines’ Day liturgy. Every Mass is a celebration of God’s love. Every Mass is a reminder of his command that we love one another.
Happy Valentines Day!