JESUS CHRIST OUR TRUE AND BEST LOVER
The 14th February every Year has come to be known across the World as Valentine Day or Lover’s Day. For those who know that St. Valentine, a Catholic Priest, was martyred in the cause of approving and celebrating true married love among young people, the 14th February on which day St. Valentine was killed has now become a special day to remember a caring lover of young people and a promoter of genuine love, especially married love. For those who are just excited about the dream, idea and experience of love, Lover’s Day has become a day to dream, to fantasize or to seek for love and send out love-notes and gifts. Thus, whether associated with St. Valentine or with love in dream or practice, Valentine Day creates a love excitement. That’s why we can say that with February 14th Valentine Day-Love is in the air! Love is everywhere!
Thank God St. Valentine’s Day is also called Lover’s Day and not Hater’s Day. For it is always good to love and not to hate. But because so-called love can suddenly turn to jealousy, hatred and wickedness, it is good on the occasion of St. Valentine’s Day or Lover’s Day to take a close look at genuine or true love.
Every people, every culture has some understanding of love which arises from the basic goodness in created things that evokes likeness and attraction. The author of Genesis first alludes to this basic goodness of creation when he writes:
”God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good”.Gen. 1:31.
The same author anticipates the likeness between man and woman when he writes:
God created man in the Image of himself…male and female he created them. Gen. 1:27
The mutual attraction between male and female is finally captured in Adam’s exclamation on sighting Eve:
This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh! She is to be Called Woman because she was taken from Man. Gen. 2:23
It is this male-female likeness and attraction that lead to friendship, courtship and marriage. But since evil and sin entered the World and spread all over, the wonderful God-given attraction between male and female has been so disordered that it requires special divine intervention and spiritual-moral effort on the part of humans to restore the beauty, purity, dignity and integrity of male-female likeness and attraction which are components of mutual love.
It took the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ to begin and continue the work of restoring humans to the path of rectitude in general with particular reference to male-female relationship which is foundational to family and social life. But because abuse of male-female relationship sinfully affects and defiles personal, family and social life indiscriminately, Jesus speaks with concern about such and related vices:
For it is from within, from the heart, that evil Intentions emerge: fornication, Theft, murder, adultery, avarice, Malice, deceit, envy, slander, Pride, folly. All these evil Things come from within and Make a person.
In teaching about adultery Jesus indeed affirms the commandment that says, you shall not commit adultery. But he goes on to raise the standard of sexual and marital purity when he adds:
If a man looks at a Woman lustfully he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:37.
He equally went on to condemn divorce since it opens the door to possible adultery. Mt. 5:31-32
Jesus did not just condemn the evils found among humans; He took on our human condition in every way except sin. In that way He offered to all humans the possibility of renouncing sin and beginning a new life with the power He makes available. Promoting Boundless Love.
Among the Jews to whom Christ came the existing teaching about love states that ‘you will love your neighbour and hate your enemy”. But Our Lord Jesus Christ corrected that Law directing us as follows:
Love your enemies and pray For those who persecute you; So that you may be Children of Your Father in heaven, for he causes his Sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, And sends down rain to fall on the upright And the wicked alike. For if you love those who Love you, what reward will you get? Do not Even tax collectors do as much?…you must Therefore set no bounds to your love, just as Your heavenly father sets none to his. Matt 5:44-48
In the spirit of boundless love Jesus reached out to everyone in need – the leprous, the demon-possessed, paralytics, the blind, the deaf and dumb as well as the hated publicans or tax collectors.
He broke the socio-ritual barriers separating Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles. He taught that boundless love embraced continuous forgiveness and forbearance even when humans remained stubborn and unrepentant.
At the last supper with his apostles Jesus clearly knew that in the face of all his love for them, one of them, Judas, would betray him to the Jewish authorities. Finally as he was being crucified humiliatedly before the taunting public Jesus uttered this unforgettable love-prayer, and love-appeal:
Father, forgive them; they do not Know what they are doing. Luke 24:34
It was on this note of practically loving and forgiving his enemies, his crucifiers that Jesus breathed his last into the Father’s Eternal love-embrace.
The Holy Spirit of love poured down upon the apostles and upon all mankind is the flowing and fruitful outcome of Jesus’ total love for humans and all creation. By his death on the cross and his resurrection unto new life Jesus proved beyond every doubt that ‘no one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends”. John15:12.
It was St. Paul who so undeservingly experienced God’s love in Christ that best helps us to understand that Jesus is our true and best lover. ‘You could hardly find anyone ready to die for someone upright;…so it’s proof of God’s own love for us, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:7-8. That is why St. Paul goes on to rhetorically ask and answer:
Can anything cut us off from the love of Christ-can Hardships or distress, or Persecution, Or lack of food and clothing, or violence? No; we come through all these Things triumphantly victorious, by the power of him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37
It was precisely St. Paul’s overwhelming experience of Jesus’ persevering patience and forgiveness in the face of humanity’s relentless pride, greed, hatred, lust and wickedness that led him to paint the excellent portrait of Jesus Christ true and best lover in this hymn about love:
If I am without love, it will do me no good whatever. Love is always patient and Kind; love is never jealous; Love is never boastful or conceited, it is never rude And never seeks its own advantage, It does not take offence or store up grievances. …love never comes to an end …As it is, these remain; faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love.
Jesus’ self-sacrificing love is the fountain and sustenance of all genuine love including St. Valentine’s love for young men and women.
I wish you all a Holy and Joyful Valentine Day Celebration.
Most Rev. Anthony J.V. Obinna
Archbishop of Owerri