Ah, Valentine's Day! The Feast of Love! (Actually, the official Feast of Love is April 5th this year)
I love Love. It's an amazing thing. Think about it. In the midst of our massive cacophony of greed and exploitation, through the flying pieces of broken hearts rent by violence and hatred exploding off of nearly every page of the news today, still there comes, like a soft whispered wind through the leaves, Love. Even when our heads are buried deep in material pleasures and we're wrestling like Laocoön with the serpents of lust, Love knocks softly at the door of our hearts. And we know Who it is.
For me, Love and a day like today that celebrates Love is a proof for the existence of God. After all, isn't it always something above us, something we yearn for, look for, pray for, and thirst after? Love is something we believe will complete us, fill and fulfill us.
Even in our music, Love is "up where we belong, where eagles fly on a mountain high." It comes from the heavens, and falls down from the stars. What is this crazy little thing called "Love?" It's immaterial, unpredictable, you can't touch it, taste it, smell it, weigh it out or calculate its impact on your heart (or head). It simply is.... it moves in and through us, draws us up and out of ourselves. It shakes and breaks and remakes our hearts. Over and over again...
Real Love is not of this world. It takes us out of this world, even if just for a few rapturous moments, and we taste eternity. And then Life, in all its muddy messiness, suddenly makes sense.
"Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.”
- Pope John Paul II
Yes, Love is a pretty fantastic gift, except when it's not opened. Then Love stinks. It withers. It doesn't work its magic. Or rather, we who refused to let it in wither, spoil and fade. We become like the flower that refused water or the lungs that refused to breathe. Now why would we do such a foolish thing as to reject Love? Well, we believe we have a better deal. Real Love costs us. It means admitting we need it, it asks for vulnerability and nakedness and trust. And those are precious pearls to ask of a human heart that's always seeking security. We'll settle for less. We'll take the rose minus the thorns.
Valentine's Day is sweet, glittery, and wrapped in bright paper.
God's Love can be raw, barren as a desert, and is always wrapped in suffering.
The shadow of the Cross falls across the path of our pleasures. And it's almost as if we become Peter then - moving with Our Lord through miracles and multitudes, wonders and words of peace for a time, until suffering rears it's mysterious thorn-crowned head. When we hear the truth about Love spoken by the mystics, that whatever happened to Jesus must also happen to us, we recoil in horror. "God forbid that anything should happen to you, Master!" said Simon Peter, not knowing that our sins have a price tag. Only Crucified Love can close that deal.
"The Son of Man must be handed over to those who will crucify him..."
When Simon Peter rejected Jesus, I think it was utterly a rejection of the Cross. We don't like pain, pain hurts. Can't Love win in some other way? Just forgive us, shed a single tear and the world will be redeemed! Why this Heart wreathed in flames and thorns, pierced and open and bleeding for all to see? When we see this Sacred Heart, we are tempted to back away, claiming not to know the Man. Then we try to warm ourselves by the dying embers of our man-made fires. Welcome to our world, huddled together in the frosty courtyard of our selfishness while Christ is led into His prison of Love.
But this Love is always looking back for us, turning around, peering through the lattices that we've put up. Peter found this Love again, or it found him, sitting by the coals of another fire, on the shores of the sea after the Resurrection. And the Voice of tender love whispered "Do you love me?" We are Peter too and we can hear these words if we listen. And through hot tears and a lump in our throats we can say with him "You know all things. Lord. You know that I love you."
Then we get up and try to love again...