Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday February 3rd, 2019

Deacon Blaine Barclay


First of all, a word about I Cor. ch. 13, the famous ‘love chapter’ of the New Testament. This chapter is so rich in lessons about love, it points to the foundation stones of a lifetime of learning how to love. Paul begins by referring to Love as the most excellent of all gifts. We could have a whole bunch of gifts and even try to use them for the common good but if we don’t have love, we will come up empty. Charity/Love is at the heart of a fruitful Christian life. Not just any Love, but Agape Love, a love that is already a participation in the self-emptying love of God.

The Christian life, the life of a disciple of Jesus, is not a lone ranger kind of life, something perused after the manner of the modern autonomous sovereign individual. Discipleship is life lived in Communio, in community, in friendship and solidarity with others. We have been given to each other so that you can learn how to love. It will not be easy, Jesus has warned us about our capacity for hardness of heart. St. Paul gives us here not only a description of love, but a pro-scription for love, for love is something ahead of us, out in front of us, to which we are called to respond with courage and generosity. Listen once again to St. Paul telling us what love is, what love does.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Will we always be patient and kind with one another, with our family, our friends, our spouse, our community, probably not, for we are all of us, wounded, fragmented human beings, who see through a glass darkly. But love is patient; love is kind. Will we sometimes be rude, irritable, resentful, and insist on your own way? You already know the answer to that question.

This text from Paul is like a mirror in which we can see ourselves, or not see ourselves, because we all fall short of what love asks of us. This is a good text to use to prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We are made for love, for intimacy, for friendship, and yes, within Sacramental Marriage, for the delightful play of Eros, but always at the service of a love for which our hearts will always be restless. St. Augustine tells us: “You have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”. As we listen today to this famous love chapter from St. Paul, let us give ourselves to this lifelong journey of love. By our common Baptism we are called to be sacrament for each other, the Body of Christ. An efficacious sign of this love. For Christians, this is a participation in the love that animates the interior life of the Trinity, the same love which emptied itself and took the form of a servant in Jesus. This is why we can hope all things, because we have been invited into a covenant of love that is bigger than all of us. Each one of us loved from the beginning, right down to the bottom of who we are. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you…I consecrated you”.

The gospel for a moment, the people of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, at least those who were at the Synagogue the day of his first homily, were scandalized by this love that is good news for the poor, liberty for captives, recovery of sight for the blind, a jubilee of mercy and forgiveness. To be sure, at first, they marvel at his words, at the graciousness that poured from his lips. But then Jesus’ homily extends Gods covenant love to a poor non-Jewish Syrian widow, and a non-Jewish leper who was the commander of the enemy army. Jesus, preaching a self-emptying love that turns outsiders into insiders, that turns the world upside down. This is dynamite, no wonder they were enraged, drove him out of town, and wanted to throw him off a cliff. Living into this kind of Love is disturbing and disruptive, it calls us to life-long conversion, it is the task of a lifetime, but that’s OK, because, “Love never ends”.