Valentines Day, Yet Again
by Fr. Shay Cullen
It is Valentine’s day yet again and it is time to think about the meaning of life and love. The media and most of society will be absorbed with the romantic emotions of human attraction and their connotations and sexual innuendoes. They are not in themselves the essence of a loving relationship. They are the chemistry of human encounter, while they are important and to be properly valued, disciplined and hopefully guided by respect.
Mostly, they can spin out of control and dominate one’s life and lead to unhappy consequences. Teenage pregnancies frequently end in neglected, battered and abandoned children. So much for red hearts, roses, and brief and frequently meaningless sexual encounters. Human fulfillment and purpose of life is not found in the mere physical exertions of procreation.
We need to examine deeper, more enduring relationships that will give us more full human experiences like married love, love of family and children, friendship and above all, the commitment to serve others for no reward.
An examination of conscience and a review of our behavior towards others and ourselves is healthy and rewarding. We should ask if we are really caring for others or mostly satisfying ourselves. Too much unhappiness comes from broken homes, abandoned friendships, betrayal, selfishness and an egotistical life.
The greatest challenge is to strive towards the greatest love of all, the unselfish life of service that puts the care and needs of others before ourselves. It’s not easy but worth trying. Jesus of Nazareth showed us the way towards the highest form of love by his own life and example.
Of all great personalities in history, he stands out above all because of his ideal of love and because he offered it to human kind as a way to save themselves from evil, misery and unhappiness. He showed and taught it by example by loving his friends, the poor, the wretched of the earth, the sick and the hungry and above all, the oppressed that hungered for justice and truth. His love was so genuine and pure that he took his unswerving and uncompromising stand for justice and right and he died for them.
He showed us the great love of friendship and that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend. That’s what he did in the end. He called his disciples and helpers “friends”, not servants. In fact, that love of unselfish service extended not only to his friends and family but to the nation and the world. He showed us that leadership is based on humility and self-sacrifice. He got down on his knees and washed the feet of his band of brothers. Had there been a band of sisters there, he would have done it too.
A truly caring leader is a servant, not a dominating tyrant ruling by force, threats or anger. His personality radiated compassion, concern, care and cure. His friendship was open to all who came calling, who trusted him and had faith in his integrity and honesty. The love he taught was one of self-sacrifice and not self-satisfaction. In his life and friendship, there was no place for superiority or punishment, just giving respect and being open and available to all irrespective of race, color, age, gender, belief or religion, rich or poor. He was there for all who wanted to know him and be his friend and join his mission to change the world.
Genuine love of the poor, integrity and honesty, and doing what is just and true is what’s lacking in our political, economic, moral and religious leaders. That is why there is so much corruption and evil, poverty and injustice.
Many may present themselves as being religious, but in fact they don’t follow Christ. They may perform rituals and rites but do not have the commitment to bring about community transformation and make this a happier and more just world. It’s a difficult challenge but one worth striving for.
His ideal of love is not impossible for ordinary people to imitate. Hundreds of thousands of good people do live similar heroic lives and many have died for just causes serving the people as he did. Valentines Day ought to celebrate more than romantic nonsense but genuine friendship and commitment to a just cause.
(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)