True Love Calls Us To Conviction, Sacrifice
The month of February often conjures up thoughts of love. Prompted by all the trappings of Valentine’s Day, we tend to associate love with notions of romance, chocolates, flowers, fine dining and images of cupid. To some extent, all of this is well and good. Yet, there is far more to love than the mere fluttering of emotions and sexual desire. In fact, what the world tends to define as love is not really love at all. True love involves conviction, principle, devotion and, above all, sacrifice.
Consequently, sacrificial love is the real story behind the story of Valentine’s Day. The popular story behind this special day involves a 3rd century priest named Valentine who sacrificed his own life to bring together couples in Christian marriage contrary to an anti-marriage edict of the Roman emperor. Prior to his martyrdom, so the legend goes, the priest even tried to convert the emperor to the Christian faith.
While it is nice to celebrate Valentine’s Day each year on the 14th of February, we do well to keep before us the truest form of love that actually makes the world go around. Ultimately, this is the love of God for all of creation. It is divine love that creates, sustains and redeems us. It is sacrificial love that carries the day, so-to-speak. While the primordial act of sacrificial love is that of the passion, death and resurrection of God’s Only Son, Jesus Christ, such sacrificial love is reflected in various ways even today.
The love of husband and wife in holy matrimony often requires sacrifice on the part of both parties. Each must give up a certain freedom and focus upon self in order to become one with the other. Living together as one involves sacrifice, both large and small. While there might be days of romance, like that of Valentine’s Day, it is this deeper love of conviction that endures in marriage and family. In the family, the first school of learning, one learns about the primary qualities of love. Here we readily learn that love is far more than emotions and feelings that can turn on and off like a light switch. True love is everlasting. In the family, we learn about those qualities of sacrificial love that include mutual respect, mercy, understanding, listening, dialogue, courage, trust, accountability, compromise and forgiveness. The purpose of sacrificial love is about being in right relationship with God, others and self. It is ultimately about doing right rather than merely desiring to feel good. Certainly, it is not always easy. That’s precisely why we rely upon divine grace to fill up what is lacking in us.
Christian love, which is grounded in the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ, necessarily demands courage, humility and generosity. These are the very virtues that Pope Francis often exhorts us to embrace in service to others as missionary disciples. We need not wait for a particular holiday to express our appreciation for all those who reflect the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. Special thanks to husbands and wives, to parents and grandparents, to our priests and deacons, to our religious brothers and sisters, to all those in diocesan and parish ministry, to those serving in the various forms of Catholic social outreach, to school administrators, faculty and staff, and all those who take care of our churches. There are so many unsung heroes of sacrificial love among us. How blest we are to for these witnesses of Christ-like love that has the power to transform the world.