Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Pete Iorio
January 29, 2022 - 5:00 PM
January 30, 2022 - 8:30 AM
Monsignor Bill will celebrate his 52nd anniversary of ordination to priesthood tomorrow on Monday, January 31. Our staff celebrated last week with a cake. I asked him if he had any words of wisdom for us. One thing he said was “follow the light.”
In our second reading today Saint Paul gives us his wisdom on God who is love. I certainly would not have talked this way when he was Saul and very rigid in his understanding of the practice of his faith. He encountered Christ himself who challenged him by saying Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me? His divine adventure in Christ began in a dramatic way and continued after his conversion and throughout the rest of his life.
While we often hear this passage at weddings, it is very much worth noting that Paul wrote this to an entire community. Corinth was a very diverse community since it was at a crossroads in the Mediterranean. It is also worth noting that Paul came to understand this great diversity of gifts among the members of the Christian community later in his life and after having followed Jesus Christ for many years. The divine adventure was something that he was open to after having been closed off and very rigid in his practice of Judaism.
1 Corinthians 13 might be the supreme piece of condensed theology in the entire Bible. The whole message of the Gospel is there. Paul gives us a much, much larger understanding of love than comes through in our culture.
We know that God is love. In essence, Paul is giving qualities of love that are descriptors for God. “Love is patient, love is kind, Love is not jealous, Love is never boastful or conceited, Love is not rude, nor does it take offense. It takes no pleasure in other peoples’ faults. It is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure. Love does not come to an end.” It has an infinite quality like the very being of God! Whenever these qualities are present, we can be sure that God is present.
Divine love is an absolute open-heartedness. When we’re in that space, our energy flows outward and even expands. When we’re not in that space, our energy sucks in. We think about who did me wrong and why I don’t like those people and how a relative never talks to me and why so-and-so is a jerk.
To retain a positive experience, we have to intentionally hold onto it for at least fifteen seconds according to one spiritual guide, to allow it to imprint on your brain and heart. We have to deliberately, consciously choose to love and not hate. When he was Saul, a leader in his faith, he knew well how to judge and how to exclude. After he met Christ and had a conversion experience, Paul knew God as love. Referring to his conversion, Paul wrote, “Now we see through a mirror darkly, but one day we shall all see face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect, but one day I shall know as fully as I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Paul’s conviction is that he is fully known by Christ. He’s been fully seen all the way through, warts and all, and everything has been forgiven, everything has been accepted. He realizes that if he could be fully known and loved and seen for what he is including even his past sins of judgement and consenting to murder, then all he can do now is return this divine gift for the rest of life and treat others as he has been known by Christ. He lets go of his childish way of thinking and acting to become more mature in Christ.
Keeping our heart spaces open takes daily, constant work because our egos and the events of life want to close them down. The voices in the dominant culture tell us to judge, dismiss, hate, and fear. If we don’t have some spiritual practice that keeps our heart open, we will probably become a grumpy old man or a hateful old woman. By the last third of life, negativity is all that is left.
We have to work to live in love, to develop a generosity of spirit, a readiness to smile, a willingness to serve instead of to take. Because as Paul wrote, if you can do great things, even for God, and you do not have love, then you are a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. So every day, take the temperature of your soul, observing if our energy is loving and flowing outward in service of others or negative and self centered. One practice I recommend is reading the passage from I Corinthians 13 and replace the word Love with your name. Do it as an examination of conscience especially before confession.
Maybe a simple way to conclude is to repeat what Monsignor Bill said: follow the light.