Make Love Your Aim

  1   Cor. 13:1—13; 14:1

And   I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men   and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.   And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,   and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am   nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned,   but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love   is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or   rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;   it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things,   believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Love   never ends. As for prophecy, it will pass away; as for tongues, they will   cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect   and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will   pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child; I thought like a child,   I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For   now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then   I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith,   hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Make love   your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.

 

  Reflections on the Text

 

  Many discussions on community life are concerned with specific things that can
  or are being done. But if love is the “aim” then more emphasis might well be
  placed on what the community is called to “become.” In fact, without a foundation
  of love, much of the “doing” is really in vein.

When the body is functioning well, Christ is able to use it to “spread the   fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Cor. 2:14). The parish then   becomes the agent by which the seed of faith (and of new life) can be planted   in others. There is often, however, some confusion concerning the kinds of   seeds and the best way to plant them. St. Paul described the situation well   when he spoke about people who “have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened”   (Rom. 10:2). People can attend countless bazaars and programs, hear about   culture, traditions, music, icons, food, and all kinds of other things that   have been “handed down,” and yet still miss the real content of the faith.   It seems that we have invested our time and energy in seeds that will produce   plants unable to bear any fruit. We are told in the Gospel that the fate of   such plants is to be “cut down and thrown into the fire” (Mt. 3:10; Jn 15:1-8).   Culture and local traditions do have their place and deserve to be preserved.   Nevertheless, they must not be allowed to become the primary focus in our   ministry to others.

  An Orthodox writer, commenting upon parish life in regard to doing versus becoming,
  said: “A parish can be improved, but only people can be saved.” 

  “A parish
  can be improvedÂ… ”
A beautiful church with wonderful icons and an
  excellent choir may be just a well-preserved museum or concert hail. A parish
  may have hundreds of communicants and many varied programs, yet manifest a self-centered
  and misleading approach to the faith. Growth in itself is not always the answer,
  for too often success is judged simply by size and numbers rather than by quality.
 

  ”... Only
  people can be saved.”
The parish must not become an end in itself.
  It can only be more fully that which it already is: the Body of Christ, the
  embodiment of love by which its members are saved. The people must grow not
  only in numbers, but in their “life and faith and spiritual understanding.”
   

  Making love our aim
  is the essential way to transform doing into becoming. 

 

 

Relating the   Bible to Our Lives

 
  1. Love,
  like so many other words in our culture, has lost a great deal of its power.
  It has been trivialized and distorted. Yet the primary inspiration for Christians
  is their personal experience of God’s love. “God so loved the world. . .“ (Jn.
  3:16). “We love because he first loved us…” (1 Jn. 4:19). Try to remember
  incidents or passages from the Scriptures that have confirmed or revealed God’s
  love to you. 

 

  2. Look at the second paragraph of the Bible text. Substitute your name or the
  name of your parish for the word “love,” wherever it occurs. Does the paragraph,
  with the substituted name describe you or your parish? If not, examine your
  life to see where you do not measure up to the descriptions in St. Paul’s text.
  What attitudes and actions need correction in your parish?

 

  3. Love is connected very closely to belief. “If I approach a man with the paradigms
  of faith, I compose his actions accordingly . . . . But this is a two way street.
  For not only does each one of us approach the world with or without faith; it
  is also necessary that each one of us be approached with faith; we
  have to be believed in by somebody, by man and/or by God. Not only is faith
  a gift. . . it is a gift to be believed in. We are created and patterned by
  the faith of others” (William Lynch).

Taking this approach,   we can paraphrase St. John’s words quoted above, and say: “We believe because   he first believed in us.”

 

Try to remember someone who, at an important moment in your   life, gave you the gift of being loved or being “believed in.” Are there members   of your own community on whom you could bestow this same gift? (Think particularly   of the teens or younger children in your parish, other children you know,   and the children in your own family. Think also of the elderly or those facing   crisis in their lives — it’s never to late to affirm the life of another.)