Love is Patient. Love is Kind. Love . . . Most Christians and even none Christians are familiar with the Pauline text from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. We hear the passage at weddings, vow ceremonies, church, social media, etc. Or we read platitude signs in department stores and gift stores. But what is this love Paul describes? In Pope Francis’ newly released Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia or the Joy of Love, Ch. 4 or a Discussion on Married/Conjugal Love starts with a reflection of this famous passage line-by-line. This is part one . . .
- Love is Patient or makrothyméi meaning slow to anger. A loving person doesn’t act on impulse or give offense thus leaving open the power of repentance and mercy. This mercy reflects the deep compassion of God. Being merciful and compassionate does NOT mean letting ourselves be constantly mistreated, tolerating physical aggression, or allowing ourselves to be used by others. Pope Francis warns against lack of patience: “We will end up incapable of living together, antisocial, unable to control our impulses, and our families will become battlegrounds . . . Patience takes root when I recognize that other people also have a right to live in this world, just as they are. It does not matter if they hold me back, if they unsettle my plans, or annoy me by the way they act or think, or if they are not everything I want them to be” (92.)
- Love is at the service of others or chrestéuetai. I found it fascinating this word is used only once in the entire Bible. Chresteuetai derived from Chrestos means “a good person, one who shows goodness by his deeds.” Love benefits and helps others. Kind love is always ready to be of assistance. Love is more than a feeling. Pope Francis reflects: “As Saint Ignatius of Loyola stated, “’Love is shown more by deeds than by words,’ It thus shows its fruitfulness and allows us to experience the happiness of giving, the nobility and grandeur of spending ourselves unstintingly, without asking to be repaid, purely for the pleasure of giving and serving” (94.)
- Love is not Jealous or not zelói. Unjealous love rejoices in the achievements of another and recognized each person has their own gifts and path in life. Pope Francis writes: “Envy is a form of sadness provoked by another’s prosperity; it shows that we are not concerned for the happiness of others but only with our own well-being . . . Love inspires a sincere esteem for every human being and the recognition of his or her own right to happiness. I love this person, and I see him or her with the eyes of God, who gives us everything “for our enjoyment” (1 Tim 6:17)” (95-96.) This attitude leads to a profound sense of happiness and peace. Rejection of jealousy also heightens are awareness to injustice thus advocating and contributing to a more just, equitable society for the vulnerable and outcasts.
- Love is not Boastful or perpereúetai. Vainglory, an old school term, denotes a need to be haughty, pedantic, and somewhat pushy. Basically, Love is not arrogant or puffed-up. Love build up while boastful love lords over. Non-boastful love embodies understanding, shows concern, and embraces the weak. For Christians, this love involves kindness to family members less sure or knowledgeable about faith and their convictions. Pope Francis states: “Love, on the other hand, is marked by humility; if we are to understand, forgive and serve others from the heart, our pride has to be healed and our humility must increase. . . The inner logic of Christian love is not about importance and power; rather, “whoever would be first among you must be your slave (Mt 20:27)” (98.) Within families, domination and competition about whom is more intelligent destroys love.
What Have I Learned Thus Far:
I have much to learn about love and the practice and application of love within all my relationships but especially in intimate relationships. The passages challenge deeper reflection and constructive criticism of personal and peer behavior. It’s teaching me not to assume certain ingrained behaviors, whether learned within my own family or elsewhere, uphold the Pauline description of love. It’s providing me ample reflection in authentic compassion, mercy, and charity.
Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendor of true love, to you we turn with trust.
Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division: may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing. Holy Family of Nazareth, make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer. Amen.