The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
Jer 1:4-5,17-19 + 1 Cor 12:31—13:13 + Lk 4:21-30
January 31, 2016
“…before you were born I dedicated you…”
While the readings of any given Sunday’s Mass generally build up to the passage from the Gospel, this Sunday the Second Reading is more likely to grab our attention. This writing of Saint Paul, so commonly heard at weddings, has much to teach us, but only if we resist the tendency to interpret it according to our own standards. Instead, we need to allow it to lead us to the heart of the Gospel, where God’s standard is far greater: more demanding, but also more fulfilling.
In our success-oriented society, we set goals for ourselves and do our best to accomplish them. If we don’t succeed, we ask what’s wrong with ourselves. Parents fault themselves over mistakes made by their grown children. When investments made for one’s future dissolve, it’s easy for a person to feel as if his own personal value has dissolved.
It can be easy to forget that the only fact that finally has meaning in my life is the fact that I am loved by others, not the fact of what I myself accomplish. Work can be a great good, and is necessary in this world, but love is a greater good and is necessary for this world and the next. Our lives as Christians are meant to be dedicated to pursuing this good that Paul preaches about in the Second Reading.
Sometimes “love” is made into something abstract or shapeless, vague or fuzzy, but our Scripture readings this Sunday lead us to see God’s love as something very concrete. Every one of us as a baptized Christian needs to be able to “see” this love as the goal of our lives. Those who have entered into the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony have a special way in which to live out this love.
Most often, we experience love in the midst of a family. Yet whether we consider the family we grew up in, the families we may have chosen and created through marriage, or any other relationship, love among human beings is often very fragile.
Regarding this love that Saint Paul preaches about in 1 Corinthians 13, perhaps the most important thing for us to keep in mind is that it calls us beyond ourselves. This “real love” is, in fact, God’s very essence—Saint John tells us in his first letter that God is love—and therefore this real love is infinite, beyond our capacity to exhaust.
The person who truly loves is not satisfied with the past, and does not worry about the future. This person lives simply in the present, even when this means living in the midst of distress, as Jesus is in today’s Gospel passage. We do not seek to exhaust God’s love. We simply seek to live within it, knowing that in its power we can survive any danger, even if we are carried by love beyond the standards we want to set for ourselves and live for God alone.