Wednesday, February 13, 2019

LOVE: Saint Paul’s Hymn

A Reflection of 1 Corinthians 13

Love is not primarily a feeling or emotion, though love can be accompanied by feelings and emotions. It is willing the good of the other as other. When we love, we escape the black hole of our own clinging egotism and live for someone else; to love is to leap joyfully out of the self.

 “Love is patient, love is kind”, St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:4. Many of us are good or just to someone else so that he or she, in turn, might be good or just to us. This is not love, but rather indirect egotism. 

If someone responds to our kindness with hostility or even indifference, we quickly withdraw our generosity. But the person characterized by true love is not interested in reciprocation but simply in the good of the other, and therefore, is willing to wait out any resistance.

True love has nothing to do with resentment, for it wants the success of the other. The person who loves is not conceited, because she feels no need to raise herself above the other. Just the contrary: she wants the other to be elevated, and hence she takes the lower place with joy. Once we understand the nature of true love, we know why “it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). The one who loves is not focused on himself but on the object or person of his love. He is not preoccupied with his own weariness or disappointment or frustration. Instead he looks ahead, hoping against hope, attending to the needs of the one he loves.

“Love never fails”, continues St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:8. In heaven, when we are sharing the divine life, even faith will end, for we will see and no longer merely believe; hope will end, for our deepest longing will have been realized. But love will endure, because heaven IS love. Heaven is the state of being in which everything that is not love has been burned away. And in the end, “faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love”, concludes St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:13.