Faith column: Hang on to love
Are there small steps you can take toward living more fully with love toward people around you? Do your words and actions reflect God’s love?
WORTHINGTON — By the time you are reading this, many of the stores will have Valentine’s Day things marked way down in order to “get rid” of the merchandise. Maybe you are sad the day is passed and maybe you are happy it’s over.
On one hand, I really do appreciate Valentine’s Day. It’s a good opportunity to remember to tell the important people in our lives that we love them. Now, as a mother, it’s fun to share the joy of the day with my son, helping him make Valentines for others. Throw in some good candy and cookies, and there is a lot to enjoy in celebrating the holiday.
At the same time, though, like most holidays, Valentine’s Day can feel like little more than a reason for companies to sell gifts. Trying to make things “nice” for Valentine’s Day can cause the daily “to do” list to feel even longer than normal. Even more significant, I know for many people who have lost loved ones — or who long for a romantic partner — it can be a challenging day.
Like most holidays, Valentine’s Day is a “mixed bag” in terms of both positive and negative elements and emotions.
This year, though, I have found myself thinking about the deeper meaning behind Valentine’s Day. Of course, one way to do this is through reflecting on the life of St. Valentine. Truth be told, there was more than one St. Valentine. One Valentine was a Roman priest who performed secret marriages in defiance of authority figure’s wishes. Valentine was imprisoned in the home of a noble man, where he healed the blind daughter of his captor. This miraculous act caused the whole household to convert to Christianity. This saint was tortured and killed, but, before being executed, he sent a note to the healed daughter, signing it, “Your Valentine.”
Around the same time period, another man named Valentine served as the Bishop of Terni. He, too, performed secret weddings and was martyred on Feb. 14.
The factual information about the origins of Valentine’s Day and who St. Valentine was is unclear, and our modern day retellings of such stories may include embellishments or details from multiple people. (Gershon, Livia. “Who Was the Real St. Valentine? The Many Myths Behind the Inspiration for Valentine’s Day,” Updated Feb. 8, 2022. Originally written Jan. 9, 2019. Accessed Feb. 9, 2023, history.com/news/real-st-valentine-medieval.)
However, when we reflect on St. Valentine — however many people we might include in that image — may we view it as an opportunity to continue to trust in the power of love and miracles in the world. May St. Valentine’s life be a reminder to all of us to be willing to take risks in order to help foster love and joy.
It’s easy, at this point, to box up the Valentine’s Day decorations and set our sights toward the next holidays. But, I encourage us all to think about the power of love and the ways love calls us act in the world. Even if we have eaten all of our Valentine’s Day sweets, let us linger a while longer on the description of love found in 1 Corinthians 13. It says, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable; it keeps no record of wrongs; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (NRSVUE)
This type of love is worth hanging on to, even if Valentine’s Day has passed. May we, likewise, dwell more deeply on the words of 1 John 4: 7-12 which says, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love."
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent (God’s) only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that (God) loved us and sent God’s Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us, and God’s love is perfected in us.” (NRSVUE)
Are there small steps you can take toward living more fully with love toward people around you? Do your words and actions reflect God’s love? Lastly, may we always remember the words of John 3:16, “For God so LOVED the world ….”
Each day, God’s actions are motivated by God’s love for us. As we head toward March and all the seasons that come, we do not lose sight of God’s love towards us!
I hope your Valentine’s Day was full of candy and surprises. Even if it wasn’t, may we use this day as a reminder to reflect on our call to love the world and to rest in the enduring love God has for us.
Rev. Jeanette McCormick is pastor of First Lutheran Church in Worthington and Grace Lutheran Church in rural Round Lake.