The American Heart Association tells us February is heart month. With Valentine’s Day, hearts of all sizes and colors can be seen at every turn. No matter how you view it, February is about hearts and the many “I love you’s” that express what the symbol heart might mean for us. Perhaps the words “I love you” are overused but they continue to touch us deep down in our core especially when they come from someone who already has a special place in our heart. But there is also that restless part of our hearts where we sense an emptiness and, like the Tin Man in the classic story The Wizard of Oz, we willingly travel down the perilous yellow brick road to ask the Wizard for a real heart.
The prophet Ezekial invites us into that adventure with the words “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart (Ezekial 36:26, New Living Translation). An invitation to a heart transplant is something significant to ponder on this feast of love we call Valentine’s Day. God is the surgeon, Jesus is the donor and you and I are the recipients.
We put our trust in the God who tells us “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). The Divine Physician who holds us in the palm of his hand, loves us unconditionally, desires our wholeness, and promises us eternal life. This God invites us to a transformation – letting go of our stony hearts and receiving in exchange a heart of flesh.
In the analogy, of course, Jesus is the donor. In his dying he has taught us how to live and desires everlasting life for us. He’s a man without the spiritual birth defect of a heart of stone. He has a heart that is in sync with God’s heart, a heart filled with compassion and love.
The question for us is: are we wiling to receive this heart of love?. What kind of heart do we really want? Will we be satisfied with a stony, bulletproof, non-breakable, mechanical heart, guaranteed not to feel the need of love, an ungrateful heart? Or can we risk the vulnerability of a heart that loves in a supernatural way, a heart of tenderness and compassion, a heart that excludes no one, a heart that gives without expecting something in return, a heart that loves with the love of God. Jesus has the kind of heart that we need. If we love only with our natural hearts, we will not be able to give without expecting a return, nor will we be able to give back kindness for injury. It’s only natural to resent an offense and to react in anger, but we are called to a higher consciousness, to a higher love. And to do that, we all need heart transplants— or at least remodeling. (Ed Hayes).
We have so much to learn about love. What is love? St. John tells us “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. (1 John 4:16, New Translation). St. Paul tells us “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance. (1 Cor 13:1-7, The New Living Translation). Love assumes goodness and sees goodness in all that is. It affirms others and acknowledges the goodness within ourselves as well.
Valentine’s Day rereminds us that we can become ministers of a most needed sacrament. Each of us can become a minister of AFFIRMATION. All that is needed to administer this sacrament is LOVE and the willingness to take TIME for another person. Take time to hug, listen to, play with and pray with your children and each other. Let our love and acceptance of each other be visible by our words and deeds.
Jesus tells us “As the Father has loved me so I have loved you! Live on in that Love (John 15:9) We live in that love if each day we grow in a recognition of the depth of God’s unconditional and extravagant love. Jesus’ command to us is clear and simple: “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). What a challenge for us this Valentine Day! Wherever we are feeling authentic love we are at that moment feeling our oneness with God and with all that is. The experience of love arises when we surrender our separateness into the universal. Love is a feeling of unity. It is not an emotion, it is a state of being…Authentic love is not so much something we feel, it is something we are…When we feel love deeply or passionately, then perhaps (like Thomas Merton describing a mystical vision he had on a street corner) we can awake more from our dream of separateness and our illusion of difference and see the secret beauty and depth of other people’s hearts. Perhaps too it will enable us to see others at that place in them where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. (Ron Rolheiser, May 3, 2021)
May you realize in your own heart that God is passionately in love with each one of us. And the only appropriate response to that kind of love is to respond with love. Pedro Arrupe SJ describes this response to love in a profoundly beautiful way when he writes:
Nothing is more practical than finding God
that is, falling in love in a quite absolute final way.What you are in love with,
What seizes your imagination will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning;
what you will do with your evenings; how you will spend your weekends;
what you read; what you know; what breaks your heart
and amazes you with Joy and Gratitude.
Fall in love. Stay in love And it will decide everything!
May all the valentines, red hearts and decoration of this delightful February holiday call us to this kind of love. May our stony hearts be forever transformed into tender and responsive hearts.