1 Corinthians, chapter 12"Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, it is not pompous,
It 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 was dumbfounded as I sat in my pew during Mass yesterday listening to these verses as the Word was read to us. I had heard St. Paul's litany on love many times before but for some reason, it was if I had heard it for the first time. Re-reading this verse, I could not help but feel how much of a failure I was when it came to love, Christian love. If there is any one of these attributes of love that I can possibly say I succeed at to some degree, it is in not rejoicing over wrongdoing, but all the others? Nope. I fail big time.
How can I even call myself Catholic when I can't even get love right? If I have any love at all then it would have to be love of self and even that I call into question. If I truly loved myself I would more patient amidst all my failings but I'm not, and it leads to my being quick-tempered. That is pride. It means I believe myself better than what I really am. I don't bear things, bad things well nor do I endure hardships that I encounter very well either. Brooding over an injury? Ha! I take the cake!
But you see, it does not stop there. I am so hard and expect so much of myself that it reflects on others and what I expect of them. That is the farthest thing from love of neighbor. Yes, I've been able to love at times as St. Paul has described, but my lack of it far outweighs the times that I do get it right. So why is it that it is so difficult for me to love others? Because I have to deal with people like me. Is someone I work with obnoxious? So am I. Are people I deal with mean and jealous? Vengeful? Yep. I am too.
We are asked to love each other despite all these things. There is no qualification that they have to be likable. Are we likable to God? Probably not most of the time, but we are lovable to Him. That is what's hard about love. It's easy to love another if they are nice to us or just nice in general. But as soon as I meet someone that is unlikeable, someone like me, then loving them is like pulling teeth.
Loving our neighbor is not like being in love with someone special. It is not like falling in love either. It is way more than that. It means caring for that person's health and well-being of body and soul despite their personality or character traits. If we only love those that will love us back, then we are no better than pagans as scripture says. The true test of love is caring for someone who despises us, hates us and wishes us harm. That's the kind of love our Lord has for us. Think about it. He didn't die just for the goody, goody two-shoes, but also for people like me. He gave Himself in our stead while we were still steeped in sin.
He died for Judas, the soldiers that crucified him and those who mocked him. He died for the Pharisees, the thieves who died that same day on each side of Him. He died for pedophiles and for those that rejoice in abortion. He even died for me. He knew the person I would be, the sins I would commit, yet he loved me anyway and died so I wouldn't.
That is divine love. How can God expect me to love others like this? He doesn't, not without His grace that is. God's grace is the only way we can love as St. Paul describes. I fail miserably because too many times I try to love my neighbor with a love that is not the love of Christ. My love is a give and take love. You love me, I'll love you. Left to my own devices, I will never be able to love my neighbor as Christ loves us. I need help to do that. I need His constant grace. I pray for that.
Lent is almost here. Loving others in a more Christ-like way is what I will try to achieve these coming forty days and the grace to accomplish it. Pray for me.