Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Love Never Fails: An Examination of Conscience

Today's first reading was the familiar text from 1 Corinthians 13. Here is that great litany of agape that stirs our hearts, that resonates within and beyond the heights and depths of our desire to live and find fulfillment. They are direct and uncompromising words: nothing can take the place of this love, which is our greatest gift and is the energy that shapes and gives direction to everything else.

"Love" is a word we use in so many ways. When we say it, we usually mean some kind of selfishness. We think love means giving in to our impulses and urges, acting from our fears, our desperation, our grasping, our illusions. But this is not really love. It is not what our hearts seek, and that is why it always ends in bitterness.

We know that the love that fulfills our vocation as human persons is the gift that God gives us, that the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts so that we might share in His infinite life. God is Love. God gives Himself in love to us. God calls us to love.

This text helps us understand something of what the love of God is like, and how it transforms our lives. I wonder what would happen if we read these words at the end of each day and compared them to our priorities, motivations, and actions during the day. We would find ourselves examining our consciences with seriousness and depth. We would grow in love, in the awareness that the mystery of God's love sustains us and draws us to Himself. Even in the midst of tribulation, we would find joy and peace.

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.

Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.

Love never fails.