There’s a joke about a husband whose downfall was that he misread his wife’s hints for romantic gifts. As their anniversary approached, she said, “Honey, I had the most interesting dream about our anniversary. We were having an intimate dinner and I was wearing a gorgeous diamond bracelet. What do you think it means?” He playfully responded, “I think you’ll find out on our anniversary.” She was very excited when, on their anniversary, he came home with a beautifully wrapped gift box for her. She opened it to find a book entitled, “How to Interpret Dreams.” She was so angry that she screamed, “That’s it! For twenty years I’ve been putting up with your shenanigans. On Valentine’s Day, there had better be a bright shiny gift for me in our driveway that goes from zero to 180 in less than five seconds or that will be the end of you!” On the morning of Valentine’s Day, when she went out for the paper, she found a square package with her name on it in the driveway. She unwrapped it to find bathroom scales. His obituary appeared the following day.
The languages of the Gospel and the Church have many words for love. Among them are the Greek “eros,” “philia,” “storge,” “agape,” and the Latin “ludus” and “caritas.” Eros refers to physical, sexual, lust-driven, romantic love. Philia pertains to deep friendship, like a bromance or sisterhood that grew from preschool and flourished, or teammates that can read each other’s minds. Storge applies to love that is in-born and nurtured within families, i.e., parents’ automatic love for their children and that which is returned to them by their offspring. Agape is sacrificial love, the kind that Jesus gave those He met and still gives to us. Ludus touches upon puppy love—flirting and playful interaction of youth in their innocence. Caritas expresses charitable love, the kind that reaches out and cares for others, especially those less fortunate than us who are in want of basic needs. As Super Bowl Sunday overlaps with Valentine’s Day this year, it is a good opportunity to thank all of you who participated in our annual Souper Bowl collection of nearly 30,000 cans of soup to help feed the hungry in the Kansas City northland; it is an act of charitable love.
But I’ll conclude with my favorite Valentine’s story because it reminds me of the kind of love Jesus had and is shown to us by wounded healers who imitate His attitude. It is about a young boy who was physically awkward and mentally slow. His mother worried about him because he didn’t have any friends. Living near his school, she watched the other children walk home each day, giggling and playing, as her son always walked a few steps behind with his head down. The day before Valentine’s, he told her that he wanted to make a card for each of his classmates. Her heart dropped because she knew this would be disappointing. He begged her to let him stay up past bedtime so he could make a special card for each of them. Reluctantly, she gave in. The next afternoon, she watched as the children bounded down the sidewalk in usual fashion: all, but her son, were laughing, playing, and showing off their fancy cards. Her child lagged behind with nothing in his hands. She quickly got milk and cookies ready and held back her tears hoping that she could cheer him up. When he entered, he looked up and said, “Not a single one, Mom, not a single one.” As she fought back tears, she heard him continue saying, “Thank you, mom, for letting me stay up late ‘cuz I didn’t forget a single child—not a single one!”
Jesus, the Wounded Healer, will not forget us either.