Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day! Over my 50 years as a priest I have witnessed the marriages of almost 1,000 couples. As each of these couples has stood before me pledging their love and their fidelity for a lifetime, I pray with all my heart that their vows and their words will be put into action every day for the benefit of the other person they are holding hands with in front of the altar.
It truly breaks my heart when a family member or a friend passes along the news that they are no longer a couple, that they are separated or divorced. It is probably because I am more hardened now, that I look to the testimony and the actions of older couples who have been married for 40, 50, or 60 years to give me a glimpse of what a lived-love is really all about.
A woman once told me that in her entire life she only saw her father cry three times.
The first time she saw her father cry was when she was seven and his mother died.
The second time she saw him cry was at the airport when her brother was leaving to serve in the army.
The third time she saw her father cry was when he was in his 80s. Her mother was dealing with the late-stages of Alzheimer’s. She was living in a nursing home. Her father visited her mother, his much-beloved wife, every day for ten years. But he could not visit her for three months when he broke his foot.
When his foot healed, he returned to the nursing home to visit his wife of over 60 years. It seemed like such a long time since he had seen his dear wife.
He said, “I thought Mother forgot me, but when she saw me, she smiled and said, ‘I love you.’” Then, he broke down and sobbed.
Love is patient, love is kind, love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Some of you understand those tears. We know a little bit of what it means to love as Jesus loved. We love those closest to us like that.
The question is, can we enlarge that circle of love? That is what Jesus is asking us to do.