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February 14, 2015 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129

It would seem almost inappropriate for a religious column published on February 14 to not say something about “love.”  The problem is that the “love” most of us are familiar with falls a bit short of what religion understands as “love.”

In English we have one word for “love.”  We depend on the context to give us some sense of what we are talking about when we use it.  God is indeed “love” (I Jn. 4:8).  However, in the Greek language there is no question about what this sentence means.  Greek, as well as Hebrew, has at least three words for “love.”  The word used here is “agapao,” which is the noblest form of unselfish regard for the beloved, in which there is seen great value.

“Phileo” is another word for love in the Greek which connotes high regard in a familial sense.  It was properly used in the city name “Philadelphia,” which means brotherly love.

The third word for “love” in the Greek language is “eros,” which we are most familiar with.  Erotic love is not a bad thing.  It has its place in the dance of life.  However, if it stands alone, without the seasoning of higher forms of love, it becomes corrupt and exploitive.

St. Valentine was a Roman Priest in the reign of Claudius II (268 – 270).  There was an Imperial edict at the time forbidding Roman soldiers to marry with the understanding that married soldiers would be concerned with wife and children and would not fight as well as they would without such concerns.

The society at the time was quite permissive and the Church encouraged marriage and lifelong commitment to one’s spouse.  Valentine encouraged soldiers under his pastoral care to marry Christian women and performed those services secretly.  Eventually he was discovered and imprisoned.

There is a legend that while in prison he cured the daughter of one of his judges from blindness.  This healing caused the judge, named Asterius, to believe in and follow Jesus.  He is said to have written a note to Asterius’s daughter before he was executed and signed it, “From you Valentine.”  He was executed in the year 269.  This is one of those stories that if not true, it ought to be.

Every Valentine’s Day Charlie Brown would go to the mail box to see if anyone loved him.  Every Valentine’s Day he would be disappointed.  Charles Schulz never relented on this scenario. I have just finished reading David Michaelis’s biography of Schulz, and there were reasons for this.  Instead of waiting to see if anyone loves us, perhaps on this Valentine’s Day we could look around to see if there is anyone who needs our love and move up to higher ground.

When the Apostle John enjoins his fellow Christians to love one another (agapao) he reminds them that before his congregation loved God, God loved them.  What the world still needs is “love sweet love.”  However, it is not the sometimes silly love pushed by the candy brokers and the card sellers.  We need something substantial and unselfish.  Is there anyone you know who need’s someone to love them today?

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at  END-whs