By Larry Peterson
Valentine's Day is here. It is supposed to be all about Love. Yet beyond the heart-covered Valentine cards, the flower bouquets and candy. We must, as unpleasant as it may be, recognize what is genuinely going on this Valentine's Day of 2024. Love is under attack now more than ever. The onslaught seems to overshadow the Love in the air. Just look at your TV or smartphone.
Joined together to teach us about LOVE
But this year is different. This year, there is hope. This year, Valentine's Day has a special ally. Her name is Ash Wednesday. As the sun rises on February 14, 2024, Valentine's Day will have a partner. Ash Wednesday will be rising right next to her. I am praying that this unexpected Dynamic Duo of Hearts and Ash will spread enough extra Love that some of the hate and vitriol may take a well-needed vacation in the town of Hades.
Love is all about "Giving," isn't it? Christ loved us and GAVE His life for us. Now that is some serious "Giving." Most followers of Christ do their best to follow His message. But---enter the deadly sin of pride. There is the demon that can grab us in its powerful grip and oftentimes, never let go. The great sin of pride is characterized by all those who seize onto words such as, hurt, libel, disrespect, impolite, mocked, uncivil, rude and the list can go on and on and on. Enter Ash Wednesday. What is she all about. Valentine's Day has the corner on Love but this year Ash Wednesday steps in with Repentance and Forgiveness which is fueled by Love.
Enter Repentance and Forgiveness
How sad it is that pride can destroy so much, from family relationships, to friendships, to nations. For many, whenever their "personhood" is offended by someone else, any Love they may have can vanish like a puff of smoke in a windstorm. (Have you seen the "Love" extended by the candidates toward each other in political theatre?) Oh well, it is part of God's gift of free-will allowing each and every one of us to make choices. Some of us can forgive and turn the other cheek. Others—no way.
Pride and "NO"
Today, it seems that Pride* has filled the hearts of many to a point where these people, so consumed, now HATE unconditionally. What many of them hate most is one word and what it means. That word contains only two letters. That word is NO. No one better dare tell them what to do or how to behave. They have embraced secularism ( a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship).
Here is their problem: Catholics and other Christians have boundaries. Christianity tells us what God wants us to do and what NOT to do...why, the NERVE of Him! So, many Secularists (not all) take it to another level in their personal, selfish requests to abolish the influence of institutions that dare to say NO to certain behaviors. They even reject "natural law" for their own agendas.
Catholics and Christians are the most persecuted people on earth. Why is that? Why is there so much hatred toward something that is all about goodness and Love? All Christians (including 1.4 billion Catholics and 800+ million Protestants of varied denominations) follow Jesus Christ. That is more than 2 billion people or two thousand million people, who follow His teachings and His promise of Eternal Life. What is the crux of His teachings? Well, now, the bottom line is this, LOVE your NEIGHBOR & FORGIVENESS. Yeah, yeah, I know that many who proclaim to follow Jesus do not even make an attempt to Love their Neighbor or Forgive anyone for anything. Well, maybe Lent and Valentine’s Day can help change their hearts. We have 40 days to get it right.
How powerful the sin of pride is
How powerful is the sin of pride? When you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you will hear about Repentance and Forgiveness, and the Ashes smeared upon your forehead will be an "in your face" reminder of what your faith is all about. LOVE & FORGIVENESS and saying "I’M SORRY.” And if you would like to give someone you love candy or flowers, or anything expressing your Love—DO IT.
The Prideful rant against Christmas, which is all about giving. They rail on about using the name of God in schools and at sports events. They want Crosses at cemeteries taken down from the graves of fallen soldiers. In many cases, those who hate Christians kill them. Men, women, and children die every day in different parts of the world simply because they are followers of Jesus. How can Love & Forgiveness be things to hate? How powerful is the sin of pride?
Well, nothing has changed since Jesus walked the earth two thousand years ago. He preached Love & Forgiveness so they beat Him, tortured Him and killed Him. The loving crowds who screamed "Hosanna" on Palm Sunday turned fickle and screamed "Crucify Him" the following Friday. The list of people murdered for following Jesus over the centuries (including his own apostles) is countless. Being a Catholic and Christian was never supposed to be easy. Jesus Christ did nothing but Love us, each and every one of us. Look what happened to Him. How powerful is the sin of pride?
What is Love
So, on this Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday, the question to be considered might be this. What is Love? The answer can be found in the Bible in the First Letter of John. Ch 4: 16-17. "We have come to know and believe in the Love God has for us. God IS Love, and whoever remains in Love remains in God and God in Him.”
On February 14 maybe we can combine Loving, and Giving and Fasting and Forgiveness and stuff them simultaneously into our hearts Imagine the possibilities..
*Pride: There are two kinds of pride; negative pride and positive pride. This column references negative pride, aka 'selfishness' or 'meism'. Positive pride is the good pride we take in working hard to do our best while loving our neighbor.
©Larry Peterson2024 All Rights Reserved