It’s Saint Valentine’s Day today (Friday 14th February) – just in case you had missed it! I wonder how many people who do not purport to be Christian have actually celebrated the event by sending an anonymous card or given flowers or chocolates to a loving partner? In fact, the Christian Church stopped celebrating Saint Valentine liturgically just over 50 years ago (although his name and this date still appears on the definitive list of saints). Of course, we would not approve of the over-commercialisation of our secular society in charging ridiculous prices for a single red rose (or even a bunch of a dozen red roses if you are feeling particularly romantic) and over inflated prices for Valentine’s Day gifts. But if this day gives rise to a greater depth of love for one another, or appreciation for one’s partner or close friend, or potentially the wholescale adoption of Christianity into our secular world, then we must give thanks for the life and love of Saint Valentine some 1,800 years ago!
On Sunday, the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are presented with one of the longer passages of scripture that form the readings of the day. Immediately preceding this section of Good News from Matthew’s Gospel comes the Sermon on the Mount (“Blessed are the poor in spirit…”) and this passage continues the teaching that Jesus was giving to his disciples and the hundreds of people who gathered around him to listen. Jesus tries to explain some of the Commandments and is quite clear about their relevance: “Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish them but to complete them.” In some respects, this piece of scripture needs to read as one whole Chapter, and I would urge you to read Matthew Chapter 5 to be able to understand the whole ethos of what Jesus is teaching.
However, we are all busy people and the chance of us picking up a Bible and turning to Chapter 5 is pretty slim (unless we decide that it is not worth battling Storm Dennis over the weekend and choose to hibernate indoors). In which case, you will read at the end of Chapter 5 where Jesus is taking us and his followers: “You have heard that it was said, ‘ You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” We do not need to spend one day in the year focused on love for one another. This is our Christian calling and our duty to love one another 24/7 and 366 days of (this) Leap Year, just as Jesus loves each one of us.