Valentine’s Day comes toward us, showering us with flowers, chocolates, and paper hearts. Humans celebrate love, desire it, cling to it, thrive on it.
“Love, and do what you want,” Augustine wrote in the early 400s. But what does it mean to love truly?
We are captivated by stories of love, whether they tell of romance or friendship, whether they are truth or fiction. Romeo and Juliet, Samson and Delilah, Anthony and Cleopatra, Ruth and Naomi, and Jonathan and David are just some of the tales that fill us with wonder at the power of friendship and love to move and shape us. We search for deeper meaning when we take time for love. We have always done so. We talk about it, dream about it, pray over it, and always, always look for it.
Saint Paul wrote that “love is patient and love is kind” (1 Cor 13:4). Today that might mean waiting for your partner before having supper. It might involve calling a friend. It’s driving your children to hockey practice. It’s spending time with family. It’s feeding the hungry, and offering shelter to the homeless. It’s biting your tongue, and filling your heart.
True love hovers mist-like, hard to describe, just out of reach of any final words. But we know it when we feel it. It proclaims itself in the ‘I do’ of newlyweds, in the faces of new parents, in the touch of lovers, in the sacrifice of visionaries.
True love possesses other forms as well, more difficult to recognize, more often ignored. True love exists in the parent who demands complete homework, and the spouse who challenges their beloved over addiction. It lives in those who stand for justice, and those who walk for peace. True love is unafraid of caring confrontation, of demanding more, of expecting better. It holds dreams close and only lets go with a struggle, with a cry. It grieves the loss of love, the separation of death, the end of a vision.
True love gives itself for others, makes sacrifices, welcomes love in return. It reaches for the love of God, the ultimate love that would sacrifice and empty itself for humanity, holding nothing back, taking on any suffering, because its bearer knows that love is eternal and nothing good can be destroyed. The love on the cross mirrors the love of the resurrection, bound together, one in sacrifice, the other in celebration, unity, and peace.
True love holds tight to hopes of the future, faith in each other, and forgiveness of failings. It warms and builds, explodes within us, takes us higher, transforms us into our best self, the one God calls us to be. Found as much in friends as in lovers, in the presence of true love you know only one thing. You have come home.
Happy Valentine’s Day.