And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. — 1 Corinthians 13:13
For reasons I have never quite understood, I became sort of the go-to person when it came to doing readings at the various weddings of my friends and family. I’m not a particularly good reader I don’t think. I get nervous and hate the way my voice sounds. Mostly it’s just that I’m the godmother or the aunt or the friend of the family who isn’t walking down the aisle and so I’m available to read.
More often than not, it seems, the reading has been that all-popular (at least at Catholic weddings) section about love from the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. I have read it so often that I can almost say it by heart. That’s a bad thing, of course, because that probably means I’m not really thinking about the words as I recite them, and, more importantly, not heeding them.
The bottom line according to St. Paul is that if I speak beautifully, give a compelling speech, tell the very best jokes, or write a blog every day, but neither love nor am loved, nothing I say means a darn thing. That’s how important love is to our lives. In fact, it’s the most important thing. Because if you love, then faith and hope fall naturally into place.
It’s easy to think about love as we nudge our way towards Valentine’s Day. Proclamations of love abound. For $5.95, you can buy a Hallmark card that will tell your husband or wife just how much you love them. A $60 bouquet of roses absolutely SCREAMS love. Every week on The Bachelor, one or more of the women tell the bachelor-of-the-season how much they LOVE him.
None of the above examples, of course, has very much to do with real love. It’s easy to “love” someone when you are being wined and dined in exotic places. The love sentiment on the Hallmark card was probably written by a computer.
But what about when you’re 10 years into a marriage and you reach a HUGE stumbling block (something that happens within most marriages at some point)? That’s when love is really tested, and the need for faith and hope becomes abundantly clear.
When Court was in high school, he went through a (thankfully) short-lived phase during which he dyed his hair orange, proclaimed Natural Born Killers to be his favorite movie (and wore plaid flannel shirts as a tribute), and moved in full-time with his dad, proclaiming me to be impossible to live with. My heart was broken, as you would imagine. But here’s the thing….love won out in the end. Because the love a parent has for a child and the love the child has for his/her parents never fails. It’s an example of true love. Because, as St. Paul tells us…..
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
The good news is that God loves all of us in that way, with that much strength. And when it becomes hard to see the path of love, that is the most important time to turn to God and feel his love and protection.