According to the National Retail Federation, you and I spent $25,800,000,000 (yes, that is supposed to be billions!) on recent Valentine’s Day purchases: greetings cards #1, then candy, #2, then flowers, #3. When I visited the card shop looking for that perfect expression of undying love for my own Valentine, I had to smile to myself at how many other men were awkwardly crowding that particular aisle on their frantic, annual search! I made a comment about it to the salesclerk, who said it was a chaotic phenomenon matched only by the days before Christmas and Easter. So, it seems to be not only an occasion good for relationship bonding, it isn’t detrimental to the economy either. Now to focus on those other 364 days.

St. Valentine, for whom this week’s celebration is named, was a single, celibate priest. He was martyred on February 14, 269 AD, for preaching the Gospel to the Roman Emperor Claudius, following in the footsteps of Jesus by giving up his life to see God’s kingdom come. Perhaps it is fitting that our ‘celebration,’ on the anniversary of his death, is a celebration of love, our extravagant expenditures notwithstanding.

We’ve simultaneously entered the season of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and Resurrection. It, also, is a season about love – divine love – toward an often messed up, cantankerous, stubborn, fickle, and sinful people. “The greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life for his friends.” Jesus, in John 15:13, TPT. Maybe the closest example of this kind of love in our context would be that of our parents, and more particularly our moms. So much is dutifully, and lovingly, sacrificed in favor of providing for the needs, and many wants, of us, the children.

I’m captivated by Jesus’ words in Luke 22:15: “I have longed with passion and desire to eat this Passover lamb with you before I endure my sufferings.” Just imagine! Mere hours before the dark scenario is to play out, Jesus seeks the comfort of good friends, friends for whom he knows he is willing to die. Or, put another way, the God of the Universe still chooses intimate fellowship with fallen humanity even when faced with cruel, undeserved punishment. This is a love which beggars the imagination, evidence of an unparalleled commitment. That’s the love of the Lover of our Souls.

Once, thunderously, earth-shakingly, speaking through fire and smoke, once a still, small voice whispering a love deeper than words, that’s the God of supreme invitation. That’s the God of compassion and forgiveness and generosity. That’s the God continuously inviting us with a personal invitation written in red. Wow! Can’t wait to see all you invitees tomorrow, 10 AM, 3 PM, 4 PM.  PD

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