Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Greatest of Spiritual Gifts

The Greatest of Spiritual Gifts

September 19, 2012

Wednesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O'Sullivan

Brothers and sisters:  Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.  But I shall show you a still more excellent way.
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.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.   (I Corinthians 12:31, 13:4-7)


In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  (1 John 4:10-11)

Lord, grant me the grace to love others as you have loved me, unconditionally and without reserve.


Many of you probably read St. Paul’s words and were immediately reminded of weddings you have attended.  And certainly many a bride and groom have selected this particular passage for one of their readings.  But when the apostle penned these eloquent words, marriage and weddings were the furthest thing from his mind.

He was writing to the Christian community he had established at Corinth during his second missionary journey.  Paul had received word that a number of problems had cropped up in the church at Corinth. Just prior to this section of his missive, he dealt with the confusion and controversy over the various spiritual gifts bestowed on individuals.  Fights over which gifts were better or more important had broken out.  He wrote to tell his friends in Corinth that arguing over who’s received what gifts was a total waste of time.  The Church as the Body of Christ, then and now, needs all the gifts put together to function as a whole body.  And, in any case, the very gifts in contention will eventually pass away and cease to be important.

Today, Paul says, I will tell you about an even better gift, the one gift that endures, the gift of love.  When everything else ceases to exist, love will remain.  No matter what gifts God may send our way, without love, they mean nothing.  The Greek word Paul uses is “agape,” a very specific type of love.  Agape is unconditional love.  It’s the desire for the well-being of the other.  Agape is love that expects nothing in return.  Agape is the love which allowed Jesus to pray for forgiveness for those who nailed him to the Cross.  When John says, “God is love,” the word he uses is agape.  God is agape.

Paul tells the Corinthians and us that if we want to be the church, the Body of Christ, our life together needs to be undergirded by agape.  The apostle lays out the specifics of this type of love in the verses for today.  This type of love is something we choose.  It doesn’t necessarily involve warm, fuzzy feelings for others.  It’s more about our attitude than our feelings.  


Beginning with your Cursillo group, take a few minutes to reflect on the Christian communities of which you are a part.  If the apostle Paul were to drop by, would he find your community undergirded by agape?  Are you yourself patient and kind when dealing with other members of your group, or do you find yourself irritated when they are not in tune with your type of spirituality, or are in a different place theologically?  When disagreements occur, as they inevitably do, are you quick-tempered and in a hurry to defend your point of view or do you listen and consider what others have to say?  Do you rejoice at God’s work in others’ lives or are you envious?  Look back at all the characteristics of agape as Paul has delineated them.

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