Valentine’s Day is coming soon. It’s one of my favorite days of the year. I love it, first of all, because it comes in the middle of February, often a time of darkness and cold—at least where I live. It comes smack in the middle of the celebrations of Christmas (now a distant memory) and Easter (still weeks away). I also love Valentine’s Day, a Christian/pagan feast, because it celebrates love—all kinds of love—eros (sexual love), philia (brotherly/sisterly love), and agape (love of the soul). On Valentine’s Day we take time to show our appreciation for those we love.
And I appreciate all of you, my dear readers of this blog! I launched this blog on February 13, 2012! (Happy anniversary to us!) I can’t believe I’ve been writing these weekly reflections for five years now. And some of you have been with me since the beginning (thank you for your patience and stamina!), and many of you have joined us somewhere along the way. I always appreciate new comers too. Today I would like to celebrate this feast of St. Valentine by offering you five truths about love that I have gleaned through my lived experienced, my long lived experience. I wonder: do any of these truths resonate with your lived experience?
- Love begins and ends with God. St. John said it best: “We love because God loved us first.” All love flows from God. But love isn’t so much something I do; it is something I participate in. More accurately, love is not a thing at all. Love is a person. Again I quote from the letter of St. John: “God is love.” If we’re having difficulty loving then maybe we have lost sight of God’s great love for each one of us. Or maybe we have turned love into a project.
- Loving is the hardest thing we do. Why did Jesus have to say over and over again, “Love one another… Love one another… Love one another”? Because he knew how hard it was! Loving is so difficult and so challenging, no one gets it right every time. This realization should make us more patient with all the clumsy or faltering attempts at loving we see—both our own and those of others.
- Love hurts. If we love, we will hurt. It’s as simple (and sobering) as that. This means we will get hurt; but it also means we will probably hurt others—especially the very ones we love. If we are involved in a loving relationship, then, sooner or later we have to learn to say “I’m sorry” and “I forgive.” And we will also be hurt when the people we love are taken away from us—especially through death, the “ultimate taking away.” The point is, if you want a life without hurt, don’t love. But guess what? Choosing not to love will hurt too. I guess it’s a matter of picking your hurt!
- Loving is the most important thing we do. We do many important things in a lifetime. We get an education, we secure a job, we get married, we have kids, we go to church, we win awards, we take care of our health, we manage our finances, we plan for retirement. But by far, the most important thing we do is love. In fact, if love is not a part of all the important things we do in life, then those things have little value. (See the next truth below).
- Love must permeate everything we do. The theologian Richard McBrien said that love is at the heart of every Christian virtue. Justice without love is legalism. Hope without love is self-abasement. Care without love is mere duty. Fidelity without love is servitude. Love must permeate everything we do, whether we’re changing a diaper, cooking supper, teaching a class, feeding the dog, helping a kid with his homework, shoveling snow, driving our granddaughter to her dance lesson, sitting at a meeting, attending Mass, or even writing a blog.
So there you have it: five truths about love. What truths would you add?
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I chose an old love song to God for today: “Be Thou My Vision.” This is an 8th Century Celtic hymn here sung by the group 4Him.
Would you like to respond to the reflection or song?