FROM THE PASTOR’S DESK
My Dear Parishioners:
Today’s second reading is one of the most beautiful and popular passages of the New Testament. It is Paul’s famous hymn to love from first Corinthians. I can count on one hand the number of weddings that I have celebrated that did not include this reading as part of the ceremony. In this hymn, Paul identifies the qualities of love and enumerates their importance and power. Despite the beauty of the language, reflecting upon this hymn can be a disturbing experience. Because as we hear Paul describe the qualities of love, it is almost impossible not to measure ourselves against them. And when we compare the love that is in our lives with the love that is in the hymn, we often come up short.
So, let’s give it a try. Shall we?
I’ll enumerate some of the qualities of love that Paul describes in this hymn and as I do so, ask yourself how much of those qualities is present in your life?
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love is not jealous; it does not put on airs.
Love does not insist on its own way.
Love does not brood over injuries.
How are you doing? I know. I once did this in a small parish group. After going through the description, I asked, “How do these qualities match up in your own life?” One person answered: “What qualities? I threw in the towel at patience!”
Despite the beauty of this hymn, when we measure our self against it, it is easy to become discouraged. This is why the most important line in this passage is the first one. Paul says, “Set your hearts on the greater gifts, and I will show you one that is greater than all the others.” Paul calls love a gift. By calling it a gift, Paul is saying that we cannot love or perform the actions described in this hymn unless God gives us the power to do so. We cannot love without the gift of love, and that is a gift which only God can give.
Now seeing love as a gift is tremendously important because it challenges the normal way that we approach loving. We usually set love as a goal. There is a big difference between a goal and a gift. A goal is something that we imagine we are doing on our own, by our own will power and strength. When we try to love as a goal, we usually fall short. Then we blame ourselves for not trying hard enough. So, we try harder, and we fail again. Then we become discouraged. But Paul is telling us love is not a goal, it is a gift. Our ability to love is dependent on God enabling us to love. Without God’s grace, we cannot be patient or kind or forgiving. We are dependent on God’s gift, if we are going to love in the way that Paul describes. So, love is not a goal that we accomplish through our own strength and abilities. It is a gift which only God can give.
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