February 14, 2010


Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve & weep. – Luke 6: 25

Sometimes we need to be reminded that the Bible is basically a love story, a story about God’s love for us, even if we haven’t always reciprocated. But God never seems to give up & keeps on sending valentines through His prophets who keep telling us “Forget political alliances, the latest distractions, false promises & self-preening. Such devotion can only bring you woes. Be my Valentine!”

Some of you may have attended an elementary school where students made valentines to other class members & stuffed them into a box at this time of year. It became a kind of contest to see who would win the popularity poll with the most valentines. God stuffs our boxes with His valentines: His Word, His prophets, His sacraments, His saints, His coming among us in Jesus & giving His life for us in more ways than one.

We tend to give our valentines to money or fame. Not bad things, but they tend to demand more & more of our time & attention & love. The result is that there really isn’t much time or love left to drop a valentine into God’s box; & things get woeful. There once was a newspaper article entitled “Life after Football” about football players after they retired from the game. It’s kind of frightening:

65% of NFL players leave the game with permanent injuries. One in four report financial difficulties in the year after they retire. The suicide rate for active & retired football players is six times greater than the national average. Finally, 78% of NFL players are unemployed, bankrupt, or divorced within two years after their last game.

In their heyday they were rich, filled, laughed & well spoken of. Woe to them. They stuffed the wrong box, & God was left to lament His empty box & they their empty lives. It’s no wonder Jesus called blessed the poor, the hungry, the weeping, the disdained. It’s not that poverty, hunger & grief are good (decidedly not). It’s just that the folks who live this way have no illusions. They know they need God & that they are dependent. They know that only love will save them. Freed from clutter, false promises & self-importance, they are more apt to be open to God’s call, God’s valentines.

Some, sadly, never learn the Beatitudes or send valentines. There was an interesting article in People magazine. It was about 18 year-old Kevin Hines who decided to give up his fight with depression by jumping off San Francisco ’s Golden Gate Bridge :

As he paced & cried along the bridge sidewalk, Kevin looked for someone who would talk him out of his crazy decision. If even one person expressed concern for him, then Kevin was prepared to back down. But not one passerby gave Kevin a second glance, with one exception – a tourist asked him to take her picture. Not one person, including the tourist, cared enough to intervene. Finally, he climbed up on the guardrail & threw himself 220 feet into the waters below.

One can almost hear our Lord saying, “Woe to you who are so rich with life that you cannot rescue another’s. Woe to you who are filled with satisfaction, too filled to share with an empty heart. Woe to you who laugh, too giddy to sense despair & sadness.”

Miraculously, Kevin survived his jump, although he suffered serious injuries. While recovering, he received some encouraging advice from a visiting priest: “You are a miracle. Now go out & save lives.” He took the advice to heart, went back to school & is working to put the priest’s words into action in his life & the lives of others. He is determined to live the Beatitudes & stuff boxes. Happy Valentine’s Day! Amen!