“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated.” (1 Cor 13:4) These words from St. Paul are words we often associate with weddings. I would say that the vast majority of couples for whom I have witnessed their marriage vows have chosen this reading for the Second Reading of their wedding liturgy. After all, at the heart of marriage is love, and St. Paul’s words are indeed a beautiful description of this gift of love.
However, I never miss the opportunity to invite the couples to listen more deeply to the type of love that St. Paul is describing. He is not describing a feeling, which can sometime be how our world looks at love. And in fact, when a couple no longer “feels” love for the other, they question whether it is worth staying in the marriage. The love of which St. Paul speaks is the same love that Jesus Himself speaks to us, which we heard in the Gospel two Sundays ago: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:13) This love (in Greek agape) is a self-sacrificing love for the good of the other. It is a love that sets aside personal interests and feelings in service of the one who is the object of the action of that love.
Listen to the words that describe this type of giving love, that it is: “patient, kind, not jealous, not pompous, not inflated, not rude, does not seek its own interests, is not quick tempered, does not brood over injury, does not rejoice over wrongdoings.” To live this type of love is HARD – in marriage, in family life, in Holy Orders, in everything! But is it impossible? No, because the Lord never commands anything that is impossible. But it only becomes possible when His love is within us through the gift of sanctifying grace. After all, as St. John tells us: “God is love.” (1 Jn 4:16) The Lord makes it possible to live this type of love through the Sacrament of Matrimony, which He gave to the Church so that couples could persevere through “sickness and health, in good times and in bad” and so realize the promise that St. Paul mentions at the conclusion of his treatment on love, that “love never fails.” (1 Cor 13:8) All of the sacraments, in fact, impart this love to aid us in the fulfillment of our duties as Christians. This agape love, this self-sacrificing love cannot fail because God cannot fail. If there is a failure, it is never because God’s love has failed, but that we have not let God’s love work in us and through us.
As we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, we are reminded of how powerful God’s love in the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be. The same Holy Spirit that was able to do so many remarkable things throughout the Acts of the Apostles, and throughout the life of the Church, is available to each of us. These gifts enable us to live the Christian agape love in any and all of the circumstances of our lives through the sacraments which the Lord gave to His Church to ensure that this love could be lived. Let us all make that earnest plea: “Come, Holy Spirit” today, asking that our hearts will be more open to letting God’s love work in us and through us in ways that can transform marriages, families, relationships, our parish, the diocese, the Church, and the world!