Be My Valentine

LoveQuotesA glance at any greeting card display would have you believe that February is the month of love. Be my valentine, reads one card festooned with vivid red hearts and roses.

These days, the word love stands against so much fear and bloodshed in some parts of the world that it’s difficult to believe in its power. Nearer to home, we see the word sexualized, trivialised or traded as a commodity. Nevertheless, the desire in us all for authentic love would have us look beyond these facile uses and accept the challenge, which Jesus articulated, to love unconditionally, to love even our enemies.

That might seem like a stretch, especially now, but it is in reality what the plenitude of the greatest virtue requires. As well, there is a social imperative to heed the call to reconciliation across all the boundaries of humanity through love.

If I send Valentine cards this year, shall I send one to the jihadist who threatens my zest for travel or faith in the goodness of strangers, or to the friend who is less loyal than I had imagined, or to the churchman who refuses to heed the call to conversion from the clerical diseases that Pope Francis identifies? Are these the people that Jesus calls me to love in a special way this year?

I know that the answer is yes. And not just send a card, but to change my heart. A real heart is not shaped like the one on the card. It’s not as pretty, but it’s much more powerful. It can change minds and behaviours, even the most stubborn ones, starting with my own. I have faith in the power of love.

To deny the potential of love is to refuse hope. Loving those who inconvenience, obstruct or hurt us is a sign of our enduring faith in God and confidence in the resiliency of goodness. We must never lose hope, for to do so would be to forsake the promise of both the Incarnation and the Resurrection: that the light will not be diminished by the darkness.

We must never stop seeing people for who they are down deep rather than who they are on the surface. In a lecture given in Toronto some years ago, the Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl asserted that if we treat people in relation to who they are, we make them worse. Conversely, if we see them for what they ought to and can be, we make them better—a very hopeful outlook for a Holocaust survivor.

To love unconditionally does not require us to recklessly leap into the jaws of danger or to disregard acts of evil, but it does oblige us often to suspend judgement about those that we fear, at least until we can take other important factors into consideration.

To do this, we must operate with the best motives. Love blossoms in a climate of respect. For that reason, it serves little purpose to hold up the tragic events in Paris last month as the emblem of what’s wrong with just some parts of society. There’s plenty of soul-searching to go around.

Assuming the best of someone makes it possible for love to extend indiscriminately to our friends, to strangers and even to those who do or may hurt us. In the long run, love is saner and safer than fear.

One Response to "Be My Valentine"

  1. Daniel Garvin
    Daniel Garvin Posted on February 2, 2015 at 1:23 am

    In todays world love is difficult to discern. As Richard so aptly stated, we are consumed by a misled ideology of what love is. People are starved for love due to a lack of many social graces such as basic conversation, manners and respect to name but a few. Sexuality is labeled as love to sell cars, phones, clothing….the list goes on and on. Thus the message being, if you have this car, you will be content, if you have this phone, you will indeed find love, better still, it will find you! We, as a society have lost the innocence of love through our gluttony for owning the newest and biggest.

    Jesus commanded us to love one another as we love ourselves and to indeed not only pray for our adversaries but to love them. May we all realize where we need to be focusing our energy and goodwill, perhaps then we will re-discover true love.

    Be well, Shalom