Remember how we celebrated St. Valentine’s Day in grade school by passing out valentines to our classmates? In the fourth grade I was crushed when the boy I liked best did not give me a valentine. But then after school, he appeared at our house and handed me a valentine. It wasn’t one of those penny ones that come in a collection, but a special large 25¢ one! My nine-year-old heart was healed. He loved me after all! Every February we focus on telling people “I love you.” Interestingly, the first and greatest commandment is to love God with every atom of our being and every ounce of strength. In prayer, we tell God we love him. But words are not enough. Recently I came across the story of a boy whose father told him “I love you” every day. But the father never showed the boy love. The father’s words were empty. How sad. So, how can we show God love? The same ways that we show people in our lives that we love them. Here are six “valentines” we can give to God.
- Presence. When we love someone, we want to be with that person. In “Downton Abbey,” Anna says to Mr. Bates, “Will you miss me when I’m in London?” And he replies, “I miss you whenever you are not in sight.” True, God is always with us. But we are not always present to God. Our minds and hearts are millions of miles a way, centered on other people, our work, our play, our problems. To show God love, we arrange for a date with him and spend time with him by praying in the morning, at night and at odd times during the day; going to church where we will be with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
- Surrender. A married couple give themselves to each other totally. When I applied to the convent, the Mother Superior asked, “Why do you want to become a sister?” I told her that God was so great and had done so much for me, I wanted to give him my whole self, my whole life. Every morning we can offer God ourselves by praying the Morning Offering prayer. In it we give God all our thoughts, words, joys, and actions. In the lovely Notre Dame customary night prayer, we say to Christ, “May every heartbeat be an act of love, every pulsation an act of contrition, and every breath an act of union of my will with yours and desire for Holy Communion.”
- Presents. Lovers exchange meaningful gifts: diamonds, candy and precious things. God gave us the gift of life and showers us with gifts every day. What can we give God? (Talk about someone who has everything!) We can offer God little sacrifices, such as being kind to someone we don’t like, eating kale, or tackling a project we’ve been putting off.
- Pleasing acts. We strive to please those we love. We never want to hurt or disappoint them. Children try to make their parents proud of them. Lovers plan dates and activities that will make their loved ones happy. They do this even if they will not enjoy the event themselves. For example, a young man will take his girl to a chick flick, and the girl who has no interest in football will endure a game. So how do we please God? By doing as he wishes. In other words, we try to obey God’s commandments (which are only meant for our own good). We also perform acts of mercy, acts of love, for our brothers and sisters, for Jesus said that what we do to them, we do to him.
- Songs. A classic gesture of romantic love is a man serenading a woman below her bedroom window. Music is a vehicle of love. One of our older sisters sang modern love songs to Jesus when she thought she was alone in chapel! St. Augustine claimed that singing well is praying twice. For good reason we sing hymns in church. (At my parish everyone sings with enthusiasm. But at one church I visited, few people even opened the hymnal!) We can also sing Christian songs at home and in the car.
- Flowers. A man presents his beloved with a dozen red roses and orchid corsages. We purchase splendid bouquets of flowers to express love for our deceased loved ones. How do we give God flowers? We place flowers in our churches and chapels, but we can also set flowers before shrines in our home. It’s God who has filled the earth with an endless variety of these beautiful creatures in the first place.
God said, “I love you” in tremendous ways. He created us to be like him. Then he sent his Son to become a human being. Jesus came as a helpless baby no less. When he grew up, he revealed God to us by his words and deeds. Then Jesus surrendered his life to atone for our sins and failings. Greater love than this, no one has. If that wasn’t enough, Jesus left us the gift of himself in the Eucharist.
Click here for a love song to God:
What Valentines were special to you? How do you give God a “Valentine”?