I’m pretty old, which may be why I don’t remember Valentine’s Day falling on one of the Sundays of Lent. The season of Lent moves around, we know, because the dating of Easter is determined by when the first full moon occurs on or after the vernal equinox, and it’s the first Sunday after that. I’ve read that dozens of times over the years – and might understand it if I knew a vernal equinox when I saw one.
St. Valentine is a bit of a puzzle, too. Stories abound about several Jesus’ followers named Valentine. One comes from the time of Claudius the Cruel, who had a hard time recruiting soldiers because men cared so deeply for their wives and children. Claudius’ solution was to banish marriage! The priest Valentine is alleged to have performed weddings in secret, earning for his efforts both beheading and sainthood. He stood up for lovers, and we are grateful every Valentine’s Day.
Jesus also stood up for people downtrodden. In his first (and last?) sermon “back home” in Nazareth, he stood up for those who were poor, captive, blind and oppressed. In doing so, he stood beside the prophet Isaiah, who stood behind that same word. For his neighbors, it was a disturbing word.
Lent calls us to take that kind of stand. Will we offer food to hungry people? Comfort to those who suffer? Lift the burdens of those weighed down? May we be disturbed enough by the pain of people in such places that we act, in Jesus’ name.