Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Love never fails" (4th Sunday in Ordinary Time C, 1Cor. 13:4-13, Luke 4:21-30)

I Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, it 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.

* * * * * * * * * *

Why does one fall in love? There’s simply no purely rational, mathematic, or scientific explanation that can be given. No 1+1=2. To love belongs to a completely different order of “knowing”. One simply says: “I love you”. And if one were asked why, he could perhaps venture an explanation, but it would sound feeble, ultimately unsatisfying to reason. I just know I love you. Why? I guess I really don’t know.

Why does one choose to become a priest, with neither wife nor family of his own, without children who shall carry on his name? Why does one choose a life that demands much work but pays little, that asks one to heal, comfort and console many, while affording one nobody in particular to give comfort and consolation?

Perhaps there is no final ‘why’. Perhaps Pascal was right, the heart has reasons which reason does not know.

In married life as it is in the priesthood, perhaps the answer is simple, and it is love itself—to which there is no ‘why’. Love after all makes us see things differently: casting new light on things, making the ordinary become extraordinary, the everyday special, the small and insignificant great and awesome.

On the other hand, without love, even the great and wonderful become plain and ordinary, even the those meant to remind us of something meaningful and important are passed over and left unnoticed and neglected. Without love, even the great manifestations of God in our lives are missed, because we find ourselves, like many of Jesus’ hearers, thinking to ourselves: “Is this not just the carpenter’s son?” Without love, even the brightness of day turns into shadow and life’s very joys become like ashes in one’s mouth.

And yet the greatness of love is not that it makes one do great things; the greatness of love is that it does great things to the one who loves. It changes and transforms him, it gives him new eyes, it gives him new ears; it gives him new energy, and soul, and heart. Life itself becomes “new” because of love.

Without it, we become like many in Jesus’ day, not only incapable and unwilling to see love standing in their very midst, but more than ready to cast it aside and throw it away.

* * * * * * * * * *

And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb,‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native placethe things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’” And he said, “Amen, I say to you,no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you,there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half yearsand a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

It is often difficult to detect the traces of God in our lives because we are either too busy looking elsewhere, or downright dismissive of the possibility of his "presence" in things that are often right there in front of us.

Yet he is there, in those things we often dismiss or cast aside, calling to us, knocking on the doors of our hearts and minds, seeking admittance into our lives.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)