6th Sunday in Ordinary Time | February 16, 2020
February 14 is my favorite day of the year.
Has been for as long as I can remember.
And yet, this fact is always met with incredulous looks from most people in my life.
From college classmates and work colleagues.
From my brother Oblates and parishioners at mass.
But most especially from the young men that I teach.
Because let’s be real, for most people, Valentine’s Day is not high on their favorite day lists.
It is either a day in which they are stressed about meeting expectations for their significant other, spending lots of money on flowers, chocolates, and fancy dinner reservations
Or a day in which they feel painfully reminded of the fact that they are single with no romantic other to share the day with.
But for me, the romantic element of this day never mattered. I somehow just latched on to the fact that this holiday was a day to celebrate this beautiful gift of love that I have been given in abundance.
And so, here I was, this lanky, awkward, nerd of a kid going around my freshman year of college telling people I loved them on Valentine’s Day.
The reactions were something let me tell you.
Awkward silences and a quick hug. Uncomfortable pauses over the phone.
A flurry of responses that were carefully crafted to not say the word back.
I guess I missed the memo that we aren’t supposed to use this word. That love, freely offered without conditions or expectations, is pretty overwhelming for people.
But it was one of the moments when I began to realize that I see the world through a different frame than most people.
And I believe that remains true.
I’m pretty sure most of my students look at me each day as this fascinating anomaly.
This male figure in their life who defies every societal stereotype about what it means to be a man. About what it means to love.
I don’t think they know what to do with me, to be honest. And they are in good company. Because neither do I. Many a day, I wonder where I fit. In this country. In this culture. In this Church that I call home.
And yet, after listening to the readings this weekend, I wonder if Christ was not a similar anomaly in his own right.
A religious figure born into a system of rigid laws and cultural expectations. A binary world of black and white, where there was little room for gray.
But he upended all these expectations.
Inviting people to see the world through a different lens.
One defined by love.
And this love would change everything.
How they related to their parents. And their families. To their co-workers and enemies.
How they treated women and foreigners.
What they did with their anger. And their jealousy.
How they healed their wounds. Reconciled with the one who wounded them.
What they gave their life for. Who they gave their life to.
Christ didn’t fit into a box. And he refused to allow himself to be placed in one.
For he knew the truth. That the God who was love, the God who was at work in and through him, could never be contained. Not by a law or a decree. Not by a societal norm or a stereotype. Not by a temple or church or mosque.
He would be forever breaking through any attempt to constrain or contain him.
Allowing love to constantly be on the move. Rearranging. Transforming. Rebuilding.
My friends, this same love, this same God is active in our world, in our own lives.
If we dare to allow ourselves to become conduits of it.
Be warned, this love still comes with a tremendous price.
For you too will find your own lives turned upside down.
The categories of us and them will collapse.
The black and white will quickly blur to gray as you realize that following the path of love is rarely straightforward or simple.
That people will view you as strange. Naive. Dangerous. Foolish.
They will label you weak. A traitor. A threat. Anti-american. A heretic
They will still clamor for you to be nailed to a cross.
And yet, I would still choose love. I would still say yes. To the God who was, who is, and who will always be.
Yes, to the God who is love.
May God be Praised.