1 Corinthians 12:31, 13:4-13
The past couple of weeks St. Paul has been telling us about how gifted is our Christian community. Some are called to be leaders, some preachers, some healers; some are even gifted with the gift of tongues. He tells us that all these gifts are for the common good, for building up the body of the church. He compared the church to a human body, Christ is its head and we are its members and no one member can say to another member, “I have no need of you’ we are all one, we are all important for the well being of the body.
Today Paul tells us that the most important gift with which we can be blessed is the gift of love. We can speak in tongues, we can have prophetic powers, we can be blessed with a great mind, with a faith that can toss mountains, we can be as pure as the angels – we can even die a martyr’s death, but if we lack love we have missed the boat.
I can hear today’s second reading in my sleep. It’s read at just about every wedding. It’s usually read by someone who has no experience in public reading, someone who is nervous and wants to get it over with. So they rush though these beautiful words, this powerful message and get back to their pew.
These words about love – a love that is kind, a love that avoids rudeness, a love that is patient, a love that supports the weakness of others, a love that endures, a love that believes and hopes and will not be overcome – these words are so beautiful to hear – and so difficult to live.
How many marriages could have been saved if the husband and wife had been able to keeps these words alive in their relationship instead of giving way to resentments, impatience? How did they come to lose the love that would have helped them live with the human weakness and foibles of their spouse or their children or even themselves?
How many marriages failed to reach their potential because one or other of the spouses insisted on their way or the high way or allowed their relationship to slip into bitterness and resentments?
Again these words of Paul are so beautiful to hear and so difficult to live.
These words on love can be applied to how we deal with our own selves, with our faults and failings, with our own willingness to be patient with ourselves as we struggle to be the kind of person we want to be. So many personal problems come from the lack of self esteem, a good self image. None of us is perfect, faultless. We are all mistake making beings so we need to be patient and kind and understanding and forgiving and supportive of ourselves. We are to love our neighbours as we love ourselves and if self love is lacking our ability to love others is weakened.
This past week I had the experience of loving people. I went to Saint John last Sunday for my brother’s 80th birthday. He was in the hospital but his good wife Sally planned on bringing to his party at least for a bit of time.
Unfortunately on Sunday morning he had a down turn. By the time I got to the hospital he really didn’t know I was there. He died peacefully on Monday evening. During that long vigil I kept saying to him, “come on George, its time to go.” Sally, his wife of 53 years simply said, “George was never one to hurry.” We had a great wake – George and Sally raised a wonderful family. I got to see people – old neighbours, old classmates I haven’t seen in years. People kept coming to the door with food, food and more food – it was a great Maritime time. We buried George at Holy Cross in an area known as Saint’s Rest, right on the Bay of Funday – with the temperature and the wind coming off the Bay it was about 30 below – so I said to George, you may never have been one to hurry but this will be quick.
When you stop to think of it, we are surrounded by good people, good people, who like ourselves are trying to live the love St. Paul praises in our second reading, good people we often take for granted. It’s at times like this past week that we come to realize how blessed we are with family and friends.
We can continue to celebrate this Mass praying for the grace we need to appreciate the good people who bless our lives – asking God for the grace we need no only to hear these words of love – but live these words on love.