Memorial of Saints Cyril, monk, and Methodius, bishop
(I Kings 11:29-32.12:19; Mark 7:31-37)
Although today, Valentine’s Day, is commonly associated with erotic love, the feast has saintly origins. There are several versions of the story of the ancient martyr, St. Valentine, and probably for this reason the Church has dropped the feast from its calendar and has reassigned the day to the less primitive Saints Cyril and Methodius. In Latin countries the day is frequently called Día de Amistad, or Day of Friendship, celebrating the love between friends as much as the love between paramours. Here we may see a link between the legendary martyr(s) of old and the two official saints of the day.
Cyril and Methodius were brothers who ventured from their native Greece to the Slavic nations of the Ukraine and Moravia in the ninth century. They had positions in teaching and government before becoming missionaries. Why did they leave their careers to preach the gospel in foreign lands? Could it have been anything other than love of Christ? Sure, missionaries have a sense of adventure, but there is much more to their stories. They make a new home in a new place among new people because they sense Jesus urging them on. As any good friend, Jesus inspires, invigorates, and cares for those who leave home and kin for him.
Jesus is our friend as well. He might be whispering in our ear to become foreign missionaries, but more likely he wants us to preach to those who surround us today. Of course, he does not want us to harangue anyone, quite the contrary. He asks us to share his joy, his peace, and his love.