When I think February, I think pink hearts, red roses, teddy bears, Valentine’s Day and love. Every year as Valentine ’s Day is hyped up, the flowers are delivered, the Hallmark cards are given and the chocolate is eaten, I expectantly await Feb. 15 when everything is 50 percent off in the stores and I can buy myself the same goodies at half the price. And then I stop, I reflect, and I chuckle. Does the world even know who St. Valentine was? What are we celebrating?
St. Valentine was a priest for the church in the third century, a time of great persecution against Christians. He did what he could to protect those who were being martyred, but was soon caught by the authorities. When he refused to renounce his faith, he was sentenced to be clubbed and then beheaded. He died on Feb. 14, around the year 269.
This is what we celebrate on Valentine’s Day — love that is willing to sacrifice, love that wants what’s best for the other. For the Christians in the early church, like St. Valentine, those who made the most heroic decisions to love oftentimes ended up dying a martyr’s death. They understood that love was stronger than death, and this strength to love didn’t come from themselves, but from Christ.
Blessed John Paul II summed it up best with his own words: “What really matters in life is that we are loved by Christ and that we love Him in return. In comparison to the love of Jesus, everything else is secondary. And, without the love of Jesus, everything is useless.”
Love was crucified on a cross for us. And it is because Christ first loved us and gave Himself up for us that we are able to love.
The high school students I work with are constantly on this search for love. Some seek it in the wrong places, some seek it in Christ, some struggle to let go of past hurts in order to be loved. When a teen encounters the love of Christ, it changes his or her life. It sparks a new light in his or her own heart that they can more readily share with others. It gives them courage, the strength to make sacrifices. The love of Christ transforms lives and it can transform yours too. This month, let’s continue to reflect on the transforming love of Christ and how we live it in our daily lives. And may we always remember that “we love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19.
St. Mary of Nazareth Catholic Church
4600 Meredith Drive,
Saturday: 5 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m., 11 a.m.
Tuesday, Friday: 8 a.m.
Wednesday, Thursday: 6:45 a.m.