Scripture: Lectionary for Sept. 19.# 445 I Corinthians 12:31-13:13, Psalm 33:2-3.4-5.12.22, Luke 7:31-35
Bookends help us to keep a neat shelf of books without their slanting and falling on one another. In writing there are bookends which are called “inclusions”. They are very helpful in seeing how the author wanted us to read or hear a complete unit in itself. This happens in both the Psalms thus in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.
Today we have Paul framing or supporting his hymn or song to love with the first verse and last verse of our first reading from Corinthians.
Cor. 12:31: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I will show you a still more excellent way. 13:13: So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Paul is encouraging the Corinthians and us to take in the content of this wonderful piece of Scripture which has inspired us throughout our lives. We hear it used at weddings, but also often at conferences or from our spiritual advisors. It entices us to listen to the entire poetic thought by the fact that Paul is going to show the greatest of gifts that God pours out upon us. Paul will guide us through other gifts and show how they will not remain forever, but the greatest of gifts and their supportive virtues will continue into eternity.
Paul will spell out for us what this greatest of gifts enables us to do in our relationships with God and with others. Many systems of virtues will agree with the conclusion of Paul and speak also of these gifts as those of consummation, perfection, or the highest state of holy living for us. We all know what this gift is: LOVE (Agape). We saw how Paul challenged the Corinthians about their behavior at what was known as the love-feast before the Eucharist. Now he puts it to all of us how we should approach God and one another in our relationships. The Eucharist is a most intimate relationship with God and one another so Paul’s hymn makes sense in where he has placed it after reminding the Corinthians of their responsibility of respect and love for the other members of the community and especially for the bond of love that the Eucharist effects in each of them.
It is interesting that Paul tells us that love starts with patience! That means waiting, listening, standing attentive to the words of God and one another.
A prayerful way of assimilating this hymn of love is to apply it to ourselves as a way of examining our conscience where we stand with charity and love. If I take each of the virtues or characteristics of love and apply them to myself I will discover I do have some of them and am lacking in others. I need to work with the graces of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit to develop those virtues which are weak in me. For our final part of this reflection we ask ourselves these questions: “Am I patient? Am I kind? Am I not jealous? Do I like to be center stage and dominate in conversations with another? Do I seek my own interests? Am I quick tempered? Etc. May the Lord Jesus help us to develop these into virtues that are supportive of the greatest of God’s gifts, LOVE. After all, we believe that God is LOVE. Amen.
Copyright 2012 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.