4th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

“Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.”

The greatest gift, St. Paul says, is love. Love is the goal of our lives. The purpose of all the commandments is to bring us to live our lives with love, as we were created to do. Our second reading is a reading that is often chosen by couples for their wedding and I think it is a very appropriate reading for a wedding. As the couple makes their promises to love one another for the rest of their lives: in sickness and in health; in good times and in bad; this reading is a good reminder of what true love is really like. This passage about love can make a good examination of conscience. I can read through the passage and ask myself if I can apply each description of real love to myself. If not, then I know what I need to work on.

Love is often misunderstood in our day and age. Saint Paul reminds us that love is not self-interested, but self-less. True love does not calculate: True love doesn’t ask how much it can get away with before it really offends the beloved. True love doesn’t try to figure out the minimum requirement. True love seeks the good of the other ahead of its own good. True love will do anything for the beloved: true love will even sacrifice itself for the good of the other.

If we meditate on Saint Paul’s description of love, we can see (in our mind’s eye) a portrait of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ revealed the nature of true love to us when He willingly laid down His life for each and every one of you and for me. It is important, when we meditate on the Passion of Our Lord, to keep in mind the fact that Jesus freely chose to lay down His life for us. In the Gospel today we hear that the crowd wanted to hurl Him down headlong over a cliff, but He majestically passed through their midst and went away.

Jesus did not die on the Cross because He couldn’t save Himself; He wasn’t crucified because He had no choice: He freely laid down His life on the Cross because of love. He loves you so much that He was willing to die in order to save you from sin and death. He was willing to die so that you might live forever with Him in Heaven. It is said that it was not the nails that held Jesus upon the Cross, but rather love; and not just a general love for all humanity: love for each one of you personally. Jesus is God; He knows everything. He had each one of you in mind as He died on Calvary. He knew that you would exist, He knew that you would need to be saved from your sins; He knew you and loved you and died for you. A Crucifix is a reminder and a proof of God’s love for you.

We are all called to respond to His love. He loved us so much that He willingly died for us: how do we respond to Him? He died to save us from sin. What do we do to free ourselves from sin? On the Cross Jesus said: “I thirst.” Many of the Saints tell us that that was not indicative of physical thirst as much as it was a manifestation of His thirst for souls. Saint Augustine said that God thirsts for us to thirst for Him. In other words: God desires that we desire Him.

When people first fall in love, they want to spend every minute of every day together. When they are apart, they think of one another constantly. Their whole world seems to revolve around the other person. That is like the way that God loves you. God has you constantly in His mind: if He ceased to think about you, you would cease to exist. God loves you with all of His being at every moment. He wants you to spend time with Him in prayer, He wants you to think about Him, He wants you to love Him with you whole heart the way that He loves you with all of His being.

We are called to love God with all our mind, heart, and strength. How often do we seek the minimum requirement? How often do we receive our God in Holy Communion without being aware of the great Gift that we are receiving? How often do we allow the cares and concerns of this world occupy our thoughts while we forget to think of God? Saint Francis wept at the indifference that he saw in those around him towards God. Saint Francis wept and cried out: “ Love is not loved.” Let us try to love God as we ought: let us love Him above all things. Let us try to think of Him often and give Him thanks for the great things that He has done for us. Amen.