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My Sweet Valentine…

By the time you'll be reading this piece, it will be just a few days to the 2018 Valentine Day. Yeah. It was a very funny when it hit the airwaves that the 2018 Valentine Day fell on same day as Ash Wednesday. The funny thing about it was the reaction of everybody who got to hear about it. It was funny to me too. My Parish Priest, Fr Joseph Asiegbu mentioned it during one of our morning masses and then said to the congregation, 'Ndo nu'. I laughed so hard because every Tom, Dick and Harry knew why he told us 'sorry'.
Well, I might have to throw a little light on those reasons, much as it would mean stating the obvious. The reason why he told us sorry was because he knew like everyone else that Valentine Day meant lots of things that bothered on relationships, and dating and sexual intercourse and marriage proposals and so on. So, For God himself to make it fall on same day as the beginning of lent, it meant bad business for everyone who believed in celebrating Val's day in that light.
I remember doing a vox populi last year on Val's day and you should have seen the manner of comments I got from all manners of people. However, a couple of ladies surprised me as they bought lots of goodies to be shared out to the less privileged. It was an awesome feeling when I saw their heavy trolleys at the popular Roban Stores, here in Awka, filled to the brim with food items and beverages. What can I say? Mothers will ever remain precious.  
    So, yes, Valentine Day is usually linked to romance and all the theatrics that come with it. A lot of celebrities make big money out of people at this period with their special Valentine Day Shows. So many schools host their Valentine Day shows. Offices decorate their premises with the colour Red. Most private schools instruct their pupils to come to school on that day with clothes that have a tint of red in them. Same goes for their teachers. Val's day is a highly celebrated event and I make bold to say that it is one of the most widely celebrated events marked all over the world.
The question then is, since the 2018 Val's day is to take place on the same day as Ash Wednesday, what do we expect from people on that day? I cast my mind presently, back to Fr Joseph's sympathetic 'Ndo nu' to our parishioners and let out a chuckle as I type. I will go on to ask you, my dear reader what Ash Wednesday means to you. Better still, what does Lent mean to you?  Well, for me, Ash Wednesday prepares me and my entire family for lent. As we know, we are to wear ashes on our forehead to symbolize that we came from dust and must return to dust when we die. It is also a symbol of penance and a sojourn in our very different ways into a world of devotion to God while identifying with the suffering and death of Christ whom we are expected to suffer with in the forty days that the sojourn will last. The question now becomes, if lent is meant to subject us to a life of devotion, prayers, penance and fasting, how do we reconcile it to the Valentine day that heralds the Lenten season. Again, I chuckle at the words, 'Ndo nu'.  
Well, the truth remains that there are many ways to spend Valentine Day without being immoral. There are many motherless babies out there dying to be loved. Visiting them with even little things like food and other gifts won't be a bad idea. What about the beggars on the streets dying to be fed and taken care of, especially the blind ones? Have you ever visited the Prisons? It will be a very different experience altogether for you if you haven't be there before. Someone once asked me why the prisoners should be visited since they were obviously criminals that committed one crime or the other. Well, I hope you know that there are so many innocent victims languishing there for crimes they know nothing about. This is a statement of fact. So, visiting them is very noble. What about our hospitals? How many of us have plans of visiting the hospitals this Valentine Day? When was the last time you visited the intensive care unit of any hospital around you? You know, there are people who have lived in different wards of different hospitals and still have no idea when they will be discharged. Before we start thinking of getting amorous this Valentine Day, let me remind you that there are people in hospitals that have even been discharged but held back because of their inability to foot their hospital bills? I could go on and on. The question still remains, how do you intend to spend your valentine day? Another underlying question remains also, will it be spent with God involved or without God involved in anyway? That's a pertinent question we need to answer in the privacy of our minds and as sincerely as we can    
Well, I can only say that I hope that we truly understand what this feast means and indeed represents while planning how to spend our Valentine Day.
 I have decided on who my Valentine will be this year and I can't wait to start celebrating with Him. I have had so many friends and believe me when I say I have loved and been loved. I have given and received gifts. I have been spoiled silly and indulged but in all my dealings with people, I have never met anyone so selfless, so caring and so loving as He. I have never met anyone so kind as He. He is so true and sincere. He is a life changer and a man so full of love and compassion. Yes. His love is boundless and unconditional. He is so forgiving, so merciful and so giving. He is Jesus, the author and finisher of my life. His story is an interesting one and there is no better time to tell it than now that Valentine Day is around the corner and we are torn between choosing between staying and journeying with him in the next forty days and having meaningless and temporal moments soaked in immorality all in the name of celebrating this special day.
The story of Jesus during the Lenten period is the story of the Cross. It is the story of how He suffered in the hands of ordinary people like you and me even though He knew that He was God and merely took the form of man in order to fulfill His father's will. He suffered, bled, died and was buried for nothing that was His fault. He was nailed on the cross like a common criminal just so that we can be free. He felt pain. He experienced betrayal. He suffered taunts. He was derided. He was an obedient son of His father and that was what led him to take the form of man and offer His life for us. Yes. He paid the supreme price. He paid our debts with the precious blood that gushed from his wounded sides. What other proof do we need? How else can we truly understand the need for us to journey into the wilderness with Him in the next forty days. He made a huge sacrifice with His life in order to free us from the shackles of sin and give us life in abundance. How many of us are willing to make this little sacrifice this Lenten period, starting with the Valentine Day?
Are you among those that are looking out for secondary school teenagers to take to your home or to cheap hotels to defile all in the name of Valentine? Are you among those that will get young men from our universities and pay them to contract young undergraduates for you and your friends for a fixed price this Valentine Day? Are you among those who have mapped out huge amounts of money to spend on another person's wife just to prove to her that you can take care of her better than her husband who has lost his job or is facing setbacks in his business? Are you among those who will prefer to leave their shops and return home by 10am because of their Valentine who is coming to visit and spend the night? Let me make something clear. Valentine Day has absolutely nothing to do with Sexual Intercourse. Absolutely nothing. The manner you decide to spend it lies in your hands but the truth must always be told. God has decided to set an examination for us this 2018 by fixing Valentine Day on same day as Ash Wednesday. This article is not about leaving one for the other. Not at all. It is about understanding that it is a perfect arrangement to combine the two. Yeah! Lent is all about love, for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not die but have eternal life. That's why I mentioned sacrifice. So, if He could make this huge sacrifice, then why can't we make the sacrifice of making this journey of forty days with him, starting with a very sober acknowledgement that we were made from dust and will surely return to dust as we do it every Ash Wednesday? Why don't we make up our minds and be determined about fasting with Him, praying and giving up a lot of worldly pleasures just to give back to God a little part of all we have received from Him in our lifetime?
Let's think seriously about this as the Ash Wednesday cum Valentine Day of 2018 approaches. It all lies in our hands to make this happen for our ultimate good. As for Uche Amunike, I can't wait to embark of that sojourn of forty days with the sweetest man I know. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He has blessed me beyond what I deserve. He is beautiful beyond description. I have never seen a man like Him in my entire lifetime. He gives me Joy. He never disappoints no matter how much I disappoint Him. Knowing Him has changed my life for good. My tears no longer flow. My smiles are always intact because there is always a reason for me to smile and be joyful. His love has truly lifted me. He is Jesus. He is my Saviour and Redeemer. He is my choice. Yeah! He is my sweet Valentine!!!!!!!

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