February 18, 2005

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Searching for love that never fails

February is a busy month for such a short one, isn’t it? We have Black History to honor, and presidents and Groundhog Phil, not to mention the beginning of an early Lent this year.

But Valentine’s Day remains my favorite among February celebrations, because I agree with the scriptural idea that faith, hope and charity (a.k.a. love) are the principal virtues. And, the greatest of these is love.

Now, there are all kinds of love. We love God intuitively, full of awe and respect for our creator. We’d better love ourselves because ultimately, we’re all we’ve got. And, we also love our spouses, our children, our extended family, our friends and even our colleagues at work.

In fact, we throw the word “love” around rather loosely. We say we love to ski or we love Tom Cruise in his new movie or we love to eat Thai food. Really? Because true love, that many-splendored thing, involves commitment, effort and attention to the beloved beyond what we give to almost anything else in life except survival.

Love can be found in sexual expression, but sexual expression is not always love. Somehow, modern society has disassociated love from the act of sex so that the two are almost mutually exclusive.

We used to believe that sex between men and women was the ultimate expression of love because it’s the only human behavior that can lead to the creation of new life. It’s the only godlike power humans possess, so that giving one’s self to the beloved in this way, while certainly enjoyable, is also a serious decision not to be wasted on the unworthy.

So, when a couple not only “fall in love,” but also learn to really love each other through a process of discernment, they marry. And, from this marital love flows the natural desire for welcoming babies and the parental love necessary when they arrive. It’s what makes all-nighters when Junior is teething, or teenage angst later on, endurable.

But wait, there’s even more good stuff. From the example of marital love they see shared by their parents, and the parental love that’s been lavished upon them, children learn how to love another and how to be loving parents themselves. Voila!

In fact, the life education furnished in such a home spreads love all over the place. All the members of a family are better able to love themselves because they know they’re valuable people. Their moms, dads or siblings reinforce the idea all the time.

Their concern and respect extend further to other relatives and to teachers, friends and co-workers. Strangers are given the benefit of the doubt and good intentions are the expectation in relationships. Naïve, you say? Christian, I’d say.

Now, even in loving families, kids and spouses will sometimes disappoint us. Bosses will prove to have feet of clay, and relatives will fight over their inheritance. People will abuse our trust, politicians will tell bigger lies than we thought possible and even representatives of the Church will fail us.

Still, when we persevere in loving one another as Jesus instructed, life will be Valentine’s Day every day. Like the love of God, which is constant and enveloping, our love will never fail.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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