At Valentine: For the Sick and the Poor By Bishop Badejo
By Most Reverend Emmanuel Ade Badejo
Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Oyo
(“If you feel pain, you are alive, if you feel other people’s pain, you are a human being” Leo Tolstoy)
I wrote a piece a few years ago about the valentine day celebration entitled: “The Lent in Valentine”. It unexpectedly went viral. That happened because valentine day that year fell during the period of lent and many people worried that they would not be able to celebrate Valentine well during that period.
Well, I pointed out that Lent and Valentine celebration were in fact intertwined because true love always involves self-denial and sacrifice. “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). Well, love is in the air. Valentine Day is here again, but this time, not coinciding with the Lenten period. Yet, informed people know that the original valentine story was about showing love to those in need. Besides, the trying period which Nigeria is passing through at present actually calls for true valentine love, the type which embraces Lenten virtues like self-denial, sacrifice and laying down of one’s life for others. Indeed, there is yet a lot more to ponder about in the Lent in Valentine.
Every year since 1992, on February 11, the Catholic Church has celebrated a World Day of the Sick as established by Pope John Paul II the Great, a day of prayer and sharing, reminding everyone to see in his sick brother or sister, the face of Christ. Occurring just three days before the valentine day set on February 14, it qualifies to be the Catholic Church’s Valentine for the sick and the poor.
The theme of the Pope’s message for the World Day of the Sick this year is: “Standing Beside those who Suffer on a Path of Charity”. The Church thus focuses our attention in a special way on the plight of the sick and the needy, people who most need our love and care as well as on those who care for them.
Now I have often heard it said that poverty is, in fact the highest form of disease. Going by this, Nigeria must be among the largest field for real valentine celebrations in all the world.
Some economic experts have declared that under the Buhari regime 8 million more people have become poorer than they were before. The World Bank says that Nigeria currently has the highest rate of inflation in Sub Saharan West Africa and that the Nigerian government has done next to nothing to tackle rising inflation in the entire 2021. Well, no one really needs any economist to know that thousands of people are now having to beg just to be able to feed themselves and their dependents in Nigeria today.
If indeed, Valentine is truly a time for sharing love and care, then all men and people of goodwill have every reason to extend valentine 2022 sentiments beyond mere physical, amorous attraction. The sick, the poor, the marginalized, the captives, the bereaved, the refugees all need a chunk of the tremendous quantum of love energy available all around at Valentine. We just must admit that too many people need love in our country today and make our valentine goodies a surprise package for someone out there. Just so does the popular church hymn lyrics ring so relevant: “Want demands a hearing in far too many ways, the sick go unattended, death deals a heavy hand. There’s hunger in the city and famine on the plains…”.
Of course, it is so, so legitimate to love and seek to be loved at valentine. But there must be something greater and more rewarding than all that. I fancy the American educator and orator, Booker T. Washington who said: “If you want to lift yourself up, lift someone else”. Really, the gold standard for that was set long ago by Jesus Nazareth when he said: “In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me” (Matt. 25: 40). There is no doubt that love strewn further afield will always return with even more abundant reward for the lover. No one on earth can tie the valentine celebration to a more noble purpose than this.
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