Today we hear the great Pauline statement of love, sometimes called the wedding reading. Although I don’t understand the Beatles to be great spokesmen for formalized religion, they certainly got the message.
Paul, (the saint I mean!) makes it most clear, that above all things love is the key. It is the key to God, it is the very definition and essence of God.
Let us read the words again, and let them sink in:
If Ispeak in human and angelic tongues,
but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy,
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own,
and if I hand my body over so that I may boast,
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, it is not pompous,
It is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease;
if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
At present I know partially;
then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
We are told through the media what love is. It is tied up in sexual yearning and romance. It is surrounded by diamonds and roses and get-away vacations to tropical destinations. It is emotions brought to the boil. It makes one “weak in the knees” and unable to eat, unable to focus on work or daily concerns. We worry about it, we obsess about it. We pick apart every conversation, every word searching for hidden means. We rejoice when the phone rings and we despair when it doesn’t. This is what the media tells us.
But Paul tells us something quite different. He explains what real love is. It is patient, kind, not rude, not jealous. It forgives easily, wishes only the best for the other, rejoices in the others victories and suffers with failings. It is based in faith, hope, and trust. It is an eternal thing.
But Paul is not seeking to explain to us how we are to love each other, even though that is part of it. He is explaining what GOD is. He is telling us that this is what God is to us as beloved. This is what we must be to God.
Yet, it is how we are to be with one another. It is to permeate our very being and form our foundation for being in the world.
Why is this?
Paul explains that we are mere mortals, and given our humanness, we cannot see the true reality of existence or of God. We see as if through a glass darkly as he points out. St. Augustine remarked that most all we think we know about God is in all likelihood wrong.
If this is so, then why do we bother? Why do we bother to try to know God and why do we try to do what we believe he would have us do? We are doomed to failure it seems.
Paul admits that our prophesies will come to nothing and our knowledge will fail, so why the attempt?
It is because with the love which is inborn within each of us, we have a chance. Not to understand perfectly for Paul is correct, that can never be in this life. But love guides us to make the better decisions most of the time. We will not always choose as the Spirit would have us do, for we are willful humans with pesky human desires that sometimes overrides the still small voice within.
But if we cultivate love in our lives as our singular goal, we will most surely choose as God would have us more than not. This will enable us to speak truth, and to use our gifts for the betterment of all, and for the glory of God. Love ever before us, brings us to right thoughts, and right action.
- Understanding the Qualities of Love: From Unleashed You (johnathanhines.wordpress.com)
- Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (prepareformass.wordpress.com)