February 3, 2019

Out of context it sounds like the name of a hokey soap opera. Instead, Paul compares love to other gifts of the Spirit. He shows that love is the greatest gift and the reason for all gifts.
First, he speaks of gifts without love. If someone was a great speaker, but without love, it would be self-serving. We've all heard politicians who make stirring speeches, not to move us to become better citizens, but to convince us that they are the best choice in an election. The same goes for other gifts, such as prophecy, knowledge, or faith. Without love, they become spectacles that draw attention to the one with the gift. They accomplish nothing more than to boost his or her ego, just more spiritual bling. Even self-sacrifice, without love, becomes an attention grabber. Suicide-bombers are an extreme example of this, but more a common one the person who says something like, "I gave up everything to be with you and what thanks do I get?"
Next, Paul tells us everything that love is not (1 Corinthians 13:4-6). If the first part was gifts without love, this section could be called feelings without love. The feelings Paul mentions, such as jealousy, pride, brooding, and anger, usually come from thinking that everything should go my way. You can read the list yourself, but if you find anything that sounds familiar, it's a part of your personality that makes it difficult to love.
The last section is about the permanence of love. We're not talking about romantic love here. Human love at best is "till death do us part." But God's love is only partially experienced in this life. Even the gifts of the Spirit are meant to carry us forward and lead others to eternal life. When we are finally united completely with God, faith will be unnecessary and hope will be realized. What remains is perfect love.

 

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Read Fr. Julian's reflections on the weekly readings.


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