Thursday, February 10, 2011

Valentines Day is Actually A Call to Holiness

By Steve Valenzuela
Director, Small Faith Communities

A colleague recently sent me a text-like email saying “U R a Saint.” I must say I laughed out loud immediately thinking of how un-saintly I often feel and sometimes act. Actually, she was thanking me for helping her at the last minute to get a hold of some large soup pots to use at the reception for a diocesan event.

Her text though got me thinking. “If only being a saint was as easy as borrowing some big soup pots.”  Yet as I continued to ponder this, I realized being a saint is in some ways is that simple.  Someone is called a saint because they lived a life of holiness.  One of the chief ways we live holiness is when we respond openly and freely to the situations and needs of others using our strengths and resources. In Judaism, this act of kindness or goodness is called a Mitzvot and it is the foundation of righteousness. For us followers of Christ, our scriptures teach us, we are acting holy when we respond in love to God and to each other. I think St. Paul said it well as he wrote this Valentine to the churches in Rome:

Love one another with the affection of brothers. Anticipate each other in showing respect. Do not go slack but be fervent in Spirit for he whom you serve is the Lord.  -12:10-11
This month we celebrate the dubious holiday named for some early church martyrs called Valentine. Contrary to today’s popular expressions of hearts, candy, roses and romance, one of the Valentines, a priest, was holy in the way St. Paul writes. This Valentine would write “love notes” to comfort and strengthen his fellow Christians who were facing trial and possible execution during Roman persecutions. He took great risk to provide this spiritual care. These notes are a far cry from the silly or sultry cards we send today.  Therefore, a true valentine is about loving one another, doing an act of care or service that meets someone’s real need, especially when it is difficult, challenging or even dangerous.

This call to love as a call to holiness is both simple and challenging.  Sometimes it is simple like offering to do an errand for someone or agreeing to make a phone call to find some soup pots to borrow. Or it can be difficult, especially with people we are struggling just to tolerate (neighbors, co-workers or family members) or who, especially, have hurt us in the past.  To show them any kind of positive response, let alone love, may feel next to impossible. Yet the words of the apostle Paul to the Church in Corinth come to mind, “love is patient, love is kind…”

So perhaps this year, in addition to buying cards, flowers or chocolate for our beloveds, we might consider acts of loving kindness to meet a real need they have. And if we really want to practice being holy we might consider doing something especially kind for that neighbor, co-worker or family member we really can’t stand. We know we all have them so we might as well let them help us reach heaven.  Won’t we both be surprised at who we find sitting across from us at the eternal banquet.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

For Reflection and Sharing:

What acts of loving kindness might you do for those you love and those you struggle to love this Valentines Day?

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