If you’ve ever been to a wedding you are certainly familiar with our second reading from St. Paul famous letter to the Corinthians and its beautiful yet demanding description of love. Love is such an easy word to say and such a demanding reality to live, whether inside or outside of marriage. Yet when all is said and done our lives will be judged on how we loved. Jesus tells us “whatever you do to one of these brothers and sisters of mine you do to me.” Our fidelity to Christ will not depend on where we stood on abortion or capital punishment, where we stood on birth control or married or women priests – the litmus test of our lives will be ‘did we love,’ especially did we love those who did not love us.
Someone wrote that “a case can be made that our economic and social way of life is not only joyless, but unkind, impatient, and rude. Arrogance, boasting, and pomposity blight media and marketing.” The sheer in-your-face of athletics and television talk shows typifies political posturing. Resentment is parlayed by sectarians who would have us blame the rich, blame the poor, blame the parents, blame the lawyers, blame those on welfare, blame the peoples of our First Nations. Our troubles and issues are always someone else’s fault.
If you remember the movie “Ship of Fools” it’s the story of a boatload of Germans returning to Germany just before the war. There is a scene of a fellow telling a fellow passenger that all the troubles in German society can be traced back to the Jews. His fellow traveler says, “Yes, and the bicycle drivers.” The fellow says “why the bicycle drivers,” to which the other man answers, “why the Jews?” We always seem to need someone to blame for own problems or those of society or the church instead of asking ourselves, how do I contribute to the lack of love in the world around me? Do I really believe that every person I meet is as loved by God, as precious to God as I am and treat them accordingly?
Hear again Paul’s description of love: “love is kind, love is patient, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing, love bears all things, love hopes and endures all things.” When we hear these words we usually apply them to how we get along with other people, spouses, children, neighbours, people we work with. At the end of the day we may ask ourselves ‘how patient or kind or understanding or forgiving was I today? How did I treat that man or woman whose life style I completely disagree with? How forgiving was I to that co-worker I knew would never carry his/her weight? Why didn’t I object to the racist, sexist or bigoted remarks I heard today?’
Let’s face it; our lives are filled with good people, generous people, and helpful people. We all have some clinkers in our lives, or families, our places of work but … that’s life. Could we think for a moment of applying these words, “love is kind, love is patient, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing, love bears all things, and love hopes and endures all things, to ourselves?” We all know we have our faults and failings and weaknesses. Every one of us can make the words of St. Paul our own “the good that I would, that I do not and the evil that I would not do, that I do.” How patient are we with ourselves as we face our own weaknesses of flesh or character? How do we cope with being down on ourselves because we lost how temper with someone? Are we still flogging ourselves over past mistakes and sins, resenting ourselves for being so stupid or narrow minded? How willing are we to accept and rejoice in the gifts with which we have been blessed? Paul’s description of love starts with our selves. If we can’t be kind, understanding, patient and forgiving with ourselves how can we be so with others?
As we continue to celebrate this Eucharist together we pray for ourselves and for each other that we be blessed to appreciate the gifts with which we’ve been blessed and learn to love ourselves with all our faults and failing. May we always remember ‘God is not finished with anyone of us yet – we are all a work in progress.’