It’s St. Valentines’s Day, typically a day for lovers to express their passionate devotion to each other. However, all Christians are called to be lovers, aren’t we? Lovers, not in a carnal way, but rather, in a divine way. We are loved by God and are thus called to participate in his love – by accepting it for ourselves (not always so easy to do, is it?) and by sharing it with others. In that respect, St. Valentine’s Day means so much more than merely a day to give gifts to our sweethearts.
On this St. Valentine’s Day in particular, after Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement that he will renounce his office as Pope as of February 28, what better day to re-read his beautiful encyclical, “God is Love?” For, as much as we can tout human love and all it’s qualities, true love comes only from God himself, for he, indeed, IS love.
Here’s my favorite section from the Holy Father’s message to the faithful. It’s about our Mother Mary as the prime example among the saints as a woman of outstanding faith, hope, and love. If only we could love like Mary loves, we would begin to understand and demonstrate in our lives that God IS Love.
Blessed St. Valentine’s Day!
“Outstanding among the saints is Mary, Mother of the Lord and mirror of all holiness. In the Gospel of Luke we find her engaged in a service of charity to her cousin Elizabeth, with whom she remained for “about three months” (1:56) so as to assist her in the final phase of her pregnancy. “Magnificat anima mea Dominum”, she says on the occasion of that visit, “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Lk 1:46). In these words she expresses her whole programme of life: not setting herself at the centre, but leaving space for God, who is encountered both in prayer and in service of neighbour—only then does goodness enter the world. Mary’s greatness consists in the fact that she wants to magnify God, not herself. She is lowly: her only desire is to be the handmaid of the Lord (cf. Lk 1:38, 48). She knows that she will only contribute to the salvation of the world if, rather than carrying out her own projects, she places herself completely at the disposal of God’s initiatives. Mary is a woman of hope: only because she believes in God’s promises and awaits the salvation of Israel, can the angel visit her and call her to the decisive service of these promises. Mary is a woman of faith: “Blessed are you who believed”, Elizabeth says to her (cf. Lk 1:45). The Magnificat—a portrait, so to speak, of her soul—is entirely woven from threads of Holy Scripture, threads drawn from the Word of God. Here we see how completely at home Mary is with the Word of God, with ease she moves in and out of it. She speaks and thinks with the Word of God; the Word of God becomes her word, and her word issues from the Word of God. Here we see how her thoughts are attuned to the thoughts of God, how her will is one with the will of God. Since Mary is completely imbued with the Word of God, she is able to become the Mother of the Word Incarnate. Finally, Mary is a woman who loves. How could it be otherwise? As a believer who in faith thinks with God’s thoughts and wills with God’s will, she cannot fail to be a woman who loves. We sense this in her quiet gestures, as recounted by the infancy narratives in the Gospel. We see it in the delicacy with which she recognizes the need of the spouses at Cana and makes it known to Jesus. We see it in the humility with which she recedes into the background during Jesus’ public life, knowing that the Son must establish a new family and that the Mother’s hour will come only with the Cross, which will be Jesus’ true hour (cf. Jn 2:4; 13:1). When the disciples flee, Mary will remain beneath the Cross (cf.Jn 19:25-27); later, at the hour of Pentecost, it will be they who gather around her as they wait for the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14).
–Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI. December 25, 2005