Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In this weekend’s readings for Mass we find St. Paul writing about love in I Corinthians 13. We often hear it read at weddings. He begins by talking about the primacy of love among all the gifts; no matter what one accomplishes, if it isn’t carried out with love, it has little value. This isn’t news to us. We all know that a father who tries to buy his children’s affection will never possess it. A person who is a clever manager and becomes CEO of his company will never be popular with his team if he has no compassion for them. An actress may win an Academy Award, but will never be happy if there is no love in her heart for the people on the set.
St. Paul then goes on to describe what love looks like and what it is not: it is patient and kind. It is not pompous or rude. It doesn’t seek its own interests, nor is it quick-tempered. It does not brood over injury (such a great expression: brooding over injury destroys both the injurer and the injured). Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
That single paragraph is one we could spend all afternoon pondering. I would like to be able to place my name before any of those descriptors—I am patient and kind. I am not pompous or rude. I don’t seek my own interests. I’m not quick tempered. I don’t brood over injuries. I bear all things. I endure all things….
Perhaps I can place my name before some, but not others.
The Scriptures do more than entertain us. They give us a model for living. In this passage of the Letter to the Corinthians we learn that if we want to be considered a follower of Jesus, we need to look at the way we interact with others. Our prayer can sound good, but without love for God and for the people who enter our lives in the course of a day, we are no more than a resounding gong or a crashing cymbal.
When our time comes at last we shall close our eyes on earth and open our eyes on—the Face of God. But that won’t be possible unless we have tried to live our lives as Jesus asked us to: Love one another as I have loved you (Jn. 15: 12). That is, we cannot see God face to face if we haven’t seen Him in the people we lived with, worked with, rode the train with, discussed politics with. So faith, hope, love remain, these three: but the greatest of these is love (I Cor. 13:13).
St. John of the Cross wrote, “In the evening of life, we shall be judged on love.”
May we all be found guilty as charged.