Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends and Parishioners of Saint Jerome,

Pax Christi semper vobiscum!

What a coincidence that Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday this year. I remember growing up celebrating Valentine’s Day with festivities at school. We were allowed then to use any tone of red colored shirt instead of wearing our regular white and blue uniform on that day. When I was in 5th grade, we had a weeklong project of making Valentine cards that we would give to our teachers, classmates, parents, and friends. I really do not know who first promoted Valentine’s Day in the Philippines that it almost became a “holy day.” I remember seeing almost every house with decorations of two little cupids holding a bow and arrow inside a big heart in almost every window. Flower vendors were all over, and greetings of Happy Valentine’s Day was the mantra of the day. However, many things have changed since then. Our best wishes of Valentine’s Day now seem forgotten. Less and less cards are sent. Those handmade cards have been replaced by e-cards and other forms of electronic text memes on our phones. It looks more and more like the meaning of Valentine’s Day that was romanticized and celebrated in the past is now simply a part of our history.

Something that remains very fresh in my memory of Valentine’s Days gone past was the many good wishes to those who received our handmade cards. As I recall, those good wishes were sent to the people who were dear to us. We sent them to those we considered having a relationship. Today, we still do the same on other occasions. We send our best wishes to our friends, to our family members, to our co-workers and to our educators because we consider them important to us. In our Gospel reading this weekend, there was this remarkably interesting conversation between Jesus and a leper. As Saint Mark narrated, there was a random leper that Jesus came upon during His public ministry. The leper must have heard about Jesus before their meeting. What struck me was the humble attitude of the leper to ask Jesus to “wish” for him the healing that he needed. The leper knew that his healing would bring him a new reality. He would be restored once again to the social institution that set him aside due to his sickness. His healing would bring him freedom and an integration into the community that was the source of his joy and purpose in life.

If Valentine’s Day is about sending our good wishes to those who are dear to us; is not God sending us also His good wishes each and every day? Our homework is to identify God’s wishes for us. God desires only what is good for us. Our consciousness of God’s good wishes for us brings us a holistic spiritual satisfaction. We are assured that we are heading in the right direction of life if we come to know what God wishes for us to become. We ought to discern God’s dream for us, His Will, through prayer which allows our heart to evoke a sense of acknowledgement that leads us to be grateful. Gratitude is a product of our recognition of grace that only God can give us gratuitously. A grateful heart is an authentic experience of an internal satisfaction which defines for us a sense of purpose in life.

So as Valentine’s Day may simply be considered as a day to wish our friends, our families and anyone else who is dear to us well, those whose relationships we treasure; let us recall that God Who is Love wishes us well also. As the encounter of the leper with Jesus in the Gospel story exemplified God’s desire for all of us, He desires for us our healing, our restoration, and our freedom. Let this be our experience today and always as we enter the Holy Season of Lent next week.

Sincerely in Christ and Mary,