By: Rick Hernandez
“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present, we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present, I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13)
The previous excerpt from Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is known as “The Way of Love.” It is one of the most beautifully written and insightful passages in the New Testament and a reminder to us all that “Love” must rule in our lives. Now, let us be sincere. Do we allow God’s love to rule in our lives? Are we actively trying to grow in charity, patience, kindness, and understanding as ways to show God’s love for us to the world? Are we offering the fruits of that labor to those who need charity, patience, kindness, and understanding? Yes, do we give the fruits of our labor to the ones that need our love, even if they do not love us?
In society today, we try to teach our young ones the “Golden Rule.” That is, teach them to “treat others, as you wish to be treated.” What often goes unexplained in this teaching is that your behavior towards others is meant to be independent of their behavior towards you. Often, the children are not encouraged to learn that. In time, we grow to become adults, and often we become disappointed and angry when our love and goodwill towards others is thrown back on our faces.
When our goodwill is neither accepted nor acknowledged by others, we think: “They do not love me, nor accept me.” We then often proceed to withdraw our love from them and replace it with anger, or even sadder, with indifference for their well-being. We go into the Internet, social media, the park, or the church and scream in anger at all the ones that we feel have done us wrong; we call them names or shun them out of our circles. How is that loving? That is the “childish” behavior that Saint Paul refers to in the excerpt from 1 Corinthians. We throw a tantrum like a child. We are asked to grow up, love in a mature manner, the way God loves us. Can you imagine God behaving the way we do when we are hurt or angry?
Our Good Lord meant it when he said: “When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well” (Matthew 5:39-40)
Our Lord Jesus is not asking us things that are outside of our control. We cannot force people to “treat us well” or “love us well”, but we can train ourselves to not act angrily or indifferently towards them. We are asked not to withhold our love, even from those that do not love us. If we read through the beatitudes, we see what we are to follow and what is there to obtain:
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-12)
Let us pray: Our all-loving Lord, may we all grow to maturity in our love, that we may be able to love as You love us, that we may be blessed and be able to, in the end, see the light of your face. Amen.