Love is patient, love is kind…I know this already! It can be hard not to tune out the old chestnut from 1 Corinthians that is the second reading this weekend. We’ve all heard it, recited it, seen it cross-stitched into throw pillows. After seeing it on enough Hallmark cards, it’s easy to mentally file it in the drawer reserved for schmaltz, next to Footprints and Danny Boy.
I suppose the schmaltz-level has more to do with our understanding of love than with our understanding of Scripture. If we think of love as goopy feelings and jewelry commercials then this passage is sentimental, nothing more. But if we think of love as a choice, as radical commitment to others, as an inversion of a culture of selfishness, then the passage is radical.
“Active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared to love in dreams” says Father Zosima, one of my other favorite prophets. Maybe it’s not that love magically makes us patient and kind, but that our commitment of love demands this of us. It tears us open because it is the easiest and most difficult thing we will ever do. Love both goes against our nature and is our nature. Love is our origin, love is our constant calling, love is our fulfillment in heaven.
And Paul tells us that when we strive for that greatest spiritual gift, the one that confounds the priorities of the world, it will never fail.
The Gospel for this weekend is one of the most underrated stories in Scripture, in my opinion. After Jesus amazes everyone at the outset of his public ministry, claiming that the prophecy of proclaiming liberty to captives and setting people free refers to him, the crowd turns on him.
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.
They were going to throw him off a cliff!! And people say the Bible is boring.
It makes sense, that as soon as Jesus starts shocking people with a radical message of liberation, the people start to turn on him (though the element of “who does this guy think he is??” may have played a part as well). Why do they turn on him, then and now?
Because he proclaims that love never fails, and that’s not what any of us want to hear. We want to believe that might makes right, that blessed are the rich, that there is a way to salvation that doesn’t involve sacrifice and vulnerability. We claim we want love but we fight it because we know the cost. Love is beautiful but it leads to the cross, and it takes great bravery for us to follow Christ there.