“Agape – Unconditional Love” 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)
Jesus said to the crowds: “To what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” (Luke 7:31-35)
PietyLord, may the love You have for me be the sort of love I show to my brothers and sisters.
In his letter to the Christian community at Corinth, St. Paul has been writing about spiritual gifts and the fact that no one gift ranks above any other. In today’s verses, he changes course slightly and begins to talk of a “more excellent way,” love for one another, which is the sign that Christ’s spirit is present in any community. The love the Apostle describes is agape love or unconditional love. This is the type of love God has toward each of us; it isn’t dependent on our response. God loves us whether or not we love God in return. That, in turn, is how God hopes we will love one another.
Evidently, this type of love was in scarce supply in the Corinthian church. Unfortunately, some days it appears that not much has changed over the centuries. From the congregational level right on up to the Curia in Rome, we can find jealousy and envy, arrogance, rudeness, promotion of self-interest, long-held grudges over past hurts and wrongdoing. We are not always kind; we tend to regard people with ideas or skin color different from our own with suspicion and distrust. We live and worship in the midst of a society that itself is fractured at many points.
If agape is the desired goal, our hearts are going to need transformation. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus expresses frustration about how very difficult it is to reach our hearts. He spends his time in towns and villages, talking to people, healing their ills, and going to their homes for meals. But is he truly accepted? Is he greeted with smiles and open arms? Maybe by some, but others label him a glutton and a drunk, and say he hangs out with sinners and outcasts, lowlifes with whom no one should associate. Ultimately the people threatened the most by him nail him to a cross and execute him.
No matter what tune God plays for us, there are always those who don’t want to dance to it. Transformation of our hearts is no easy thing to achieve. To change, we have to follow the Lord of the dance wherever he leads, and, if we’re honest with ourselves, some days the melodies of the world sound a whole lot more enticing. But when we cover our ears and refuse to sway to the divine melody, we miss out on that wondrous mystery, Christ our Savior, about whom Paul so eloquently writes in all his letters. A person could spend a lifetime pondering the depths of the mystery of salvation and never fully comprehend it, but to turn our backs on the song that leads us there is a tragedy.
Every one of us can recall
situations where our attitudes and actions have proven a detriment to
the sort of love Paul describes. In our
prayers today, we can offer our hearts, whatever shape they’re in, to the
Lord. We can beg God to do whatever
needs to be done so we can love others the way God in Christ loves us.