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Gotta Love Others Always
Sixth Sunday Ordinary Time Year B
Dare we mix Valentine’s Day with the upcoming season of Lent? Originally Valentine’s Day was a 3rd century pagan festival that took place in February, a word that is derived from the Latin word februa, meaning purification. The festival was Christianized in the 5th century and St. Valentine was added to the calendar.
According to legend, Valentine (there was also a Valentine of Terni) was beheaded because of his efforts to change an unjust law that decreed single men were better soldiers than married ones. To spite the law Valentine married couples in secret. One could say Valentine’s Day is a time for justice. Justice requires love.
Lent is usually considered a season of reconciliation and regeneration. It entails a certain amount of purification (februa) on our part. That cleansing is so important today. Societies everywhere are mired in hurtful injustices. We are part of those societies. The difference between right and wrong is muddled. Superstitions replace reason. How do we recover truth over fiction as a guidepost for living?
Although the length of the season of Lent varied in the beginning, it was a time of fasting and prayer leading up to Easter. Over time, it became a period of preparation for candidates for the sacraments of initiation. It was also a time of penance for grave sinners. Lent is a period of transformation.
The biblical texts today are familiar. Two of them remind us of the debilitating disease of leprosy. The obvious lesson is that we are called to embrace all people with love no matter what their condition, or race or ethnicity is. Think of all the health care workers treating sick and dying people in our hospitals regardless of age, ability, or comorbidity. They are models for the rest of us.
Jesus taught us to touch people who are outcasts living on the edge of society. To reach out to those who have no resources or hope is an important ministry for all of us. We are summoned to spread love where there is loathing, suspicion and harm. The second reading today is an early wake up call for the next forty days of Lent: “Avoid giving offense to the others who are not like you.”
With all the distractions in our lives these days it is easy to overlook what is taking place far away in the universe. Three rovers launched from different countries are approaching Mars. The names of the vehicles evoke a constructive message for us today as we deal with imperfections here on earth: The “Quest for Heavenly Truth” (Republic of China), “Hope” (UAE), and “Perseverance” (USA).
Three nation states are working in a united effort to explore and learn more about a planet about 35 million miles away. Here on this tiny planet the names of the rovers could serve as guideposts for our journeys forward. God’s realm is already here just not yet realized. There is work for us to do.