The Second reading at Mass on the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, i.e. this coming Sunday, speaks to us of love and the works of love.
Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.
If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.
Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.
Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear.
When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.
In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13
St Paul praises the virtues and he calls us to be ambitious for them.
Ambition is not always seen as a virtue. Too often our assessment of ambition is coloured by experience of those who are greedy for the vices. But ambition to achieve virtue, to achieve virtue in virtuous ways, is always a good thing, and good for us to aim at. Not least because in aiming for faith hope and love, and seeking to achieve them/ receive them by faithful, hopeful, loving living makes us more like Christ. And our efforts will surely be rewarded by his gifts.
- What of love do you lack?
- Where do you see that quality expressed best in others?
- How might you seek to make that quality more your own in your daily living and relationship with God and neighbour?
At Prayer. Church of the Holy Name, Manchester. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.