1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13
Today’s first reading is a beautiful passage and perhaps one of the most quoted in the New Testament. It is often read at marriage ceremonies or embraced by hopeful couples, flushed with an eagerness to embody love’s greatest ideals.
But in the Bible, the Scripture passage that immediately precedes today’s reading is not one in which Paul talks about romantic or individual love, but about the new Church that is being created, a gathering of spirit and people and talents and gifts that will form in its entirety the Living Body of Christ.
There is a powerful reminder in this reading that the old world and the old ways of serving God, of leading people, of demonstrating faithfulness, are passing away. We are called to let go of our former selves like the child who must now grow up to a mature, deeper self. Love–patient, forgiving, just and enduring–is at the heart of the Body of Christ in this new world, and love gives value and meaning to all the actions of the Body. Without love–deep and committed and courageous–nothing is achieved and we can never be fully known. Even the greatest spiritual gifts, which we are encouraged to strive for, are void of life’s breath if not imbued with love.
The passage is indeed a beautiful one, but it is not sentimental. It is filled with the fire of a vision of a new way of being. We are called to be transformed through the power of love so that we shall know God fully as we are fully known by Him.
Nancy Nickel is the Director of Communications for the Holy Cross Province Development Office in Chicago.