Posted by: mmreflections | February 14, 2011

Be My Valentine! February 2011

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength…..  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

On this Valentine’s Day memories of grade school come to mind as I recall the Valentine Box which our teacher brought to our classroom early in the month of February.  All decorated with hearts, it was placed on a special table in the room for all to see.  Each day some of the children would drop some valentines into the opening on top of the box.  Each day I wondered if anyone would put a card in the box for me.  Would anyone ask me to be their valentine?  I had saved up a few cents so I could buy valentines to put into the box for some of my classmates. Up until the special day when we had a little party and all the valentines were distributed I found myself feeling some apprehension.  What if no one sent me a valentine?  As the box was opened and the cards passed out I recall how the cards piled up on the desks of the popular children.  The boys who were usually the best athletes seemed to end up with a big stack of valentines.  The pretty and popular girls also seemed to end up with a big stack of valentines.  The teacher seemed to end up with the most.  Sadly some of the children received very few cards and their feelings were quite apparent as they sat and waited for at least one card.

The greatest longing in our hearts, whether we admit it or not, is to love and to be loved.  Perhaps this is why Jesus taught us that love was the greatest and most important of all the commandments.  We all long to be someone’s valentine!  We all long to have someone for our valentine!  Deep in our hearts there is a little child asking the question, “Will you be the one who will love me?”  As we grow older perhaps the question becomes, “Will you let me be the one who loves you?”

Many of us live with the fear of being unloved or unlovable because of all our mistakes, failures, shadows, weaknesses, and other shortcomings.  Our society seems to proclaim loud and clear every day the many ways to gain this love for which we all long.  Become more attractive and you will be loved!  Join the gym and get into perfect shape and you will have many lovers!  Go on this diet and lose all your excess weight and you will receive many valentines!  Make a lot of money, get rich and you will have an abundance of friends.  Do what you must do to become famous and you will be loved by all!  The list goes on and on!  Many have followed these suggestions only to discover that what was gained was not really love but only an imitation.  It was only superficial.  When the beauty was gone, when the perfect body lost its shape, when the perfect weight was lost, when the money dried up and the fame was gone……. so was the love.  Like  the little children who didn’t get many valentines we go home feeling very sad, asking the famous question, “Where is love?  Does it fall from skies above?  Will I ever find the one who loves me just as I am?”

All the violence in our society, the addictions confronting so many of our brothers and sisters, the homeless, the hungry, the poor, the distrust, the power struggles, the greed, the hatred  all are a reflection of  the enormous number of human beings who do not know what it is to be loved and to love.  I remember those moments in my own life when I was living with those feelings of being unloved.  Having been taught as a child that God would love me if I did all the right things and did no wrong, I found myself experiencing feelings of being unloved because of my failures and wrong doings.  Soon I found myself wearing a mask all the time.  Those around me saw only what I wanted them to see.  If they knew the “real me” they would not love me, just as God did not love me because I wasn’t living up to his/her expectations.  I was truly blessed because opportunities came to me to discover the truth about love.  As a young man while on a spiritual retreat and where I learned about God’s unconditional love, I found a friend with whom I was able to be open, sharing those aspects of my life hidden behind the  mask.  To my surprise I found someone who could  love me with all my excess baggage.  My relationship with God changed remarkably as I learned more about unconditional love.  My life’s journey took me in a completely different direction from the one toward which I had been moving which was the path of destruction.  I was determined to make this unconditional love known to as many as I could possibly reach.

A passage from the first letter of John made a great impact on my life.  “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.  Whoever is without love does not know God, for God  is love.  In this way the love of God was revealed to us:  God sent his only Son into the  world so that we might have life through him.  In this is love:  not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.  No one has ever seen God.  Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in  us.  (1 John 4:7-12)  This is the message we ought to have heard from the very beginning of our lives:  “We should love one another.”

A part of this challenge to love one another is the false notion that love demands great things, dramatic moments, profound expressions of love.  In reality the demands of love are quite simple.  True and unconditional love is not limited to one person as the idea of Valentine’s Day may seem to perpetuate.  The little children in school could have been encouraged to show a little act of kindness, of love to every classmate, not only to the stars.  What a great learning experience it would have been for all the children, even the unattractive ones, to receive a pile of cards from all their classmates.  I wonder how their lives may have been affected if they had received such gestures of kindness. I wonder how this would have influenced their adult lives when it comes to reaching out to others.

As we grow older we may make love more complicated than it need be. At many social events it is easy to observe how large numbers of people reach out to greet and chat with the more influential personalities while few will reach out to the ordinary people who are left in some corner with no one to greet them.  How nice it would be to take a moment to chat with them and in so doing let them know they are also important. We might even discover that more of our brothers and sisters will attend these functions if this would happen.  They may then be encouraged to also reach out to others rather than be waiting for someone to reach out to them.

 We don’t have to wait for Valentine’s Day to offer gestures of love.  A little unexpected note to a friend is a way of saying, “You are my valentine.  You are someone I care about!  I am thinking about you today.”  Any little act of kindness, a simple gesture, a phone call, a visit is a way of showing love to someone.  We could all make our world a happier place by sending these kinds of valentines all year round.  This is an easy way to fulfill our very purpose for being on this earth which is to manifest God’s kindness, goodness, beauty and love to others.

“I give you a new commandment:  love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:34-35)

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Responses

  1. Dear Fr. Mike,
    Another great ‘soul stirring’ reflection. We all can remember the same fears. If only people would realize that the only thing we take with us when we leave this earth is “love”. Then we will receive the ‘greatest feeling of all’. The Love of God. That will be our lasting treasure. And it was all free.
    Happy Valentine’s Day

  2. So beautifully written, Fr. Mike! Thank you for another wonderful reflection. I personally try to make a point of reaching out to those who are often overlooked or forgotten altogether, especially the elderly. By the way, my dear Mother always made sure that we kids had a valentine for each and every one of our classmates so that no one would be left out. We didn’t always agree with that idea, but that was her rule, and it was a very good one, indeed.
    Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too!

  3. Hi Father Mike,

    We at this house shall all be your valentine! Thank you again for such lovely words. I believe that every day should be a Valentine’s Day, too! We are so fortunate to receive God’s love, so we all should be spreading it around all the time.
    Hope you have a beautiful day. I do agree with the part of the reflection that states everyone, not just the “stars”, should have received those valentines.
    God bless you.

  4. Dear Father Mike,
    As I was reading this posting, my son commented on your photo at this web site, saying that you are “one of the most friendly and smiley priests.” The tips that you have offered here, along with a smile to those we encounter in our daily lives, will help us to fulfill the commandment of love that Jesus taught us.
    We hope that you had a happy St. Valentine’s Day!
    Michael


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