Jer 1: 4-5, 17-19; I Cor 12: 31–13:13; Luke 4: 21-30
Love never fails. It’s hard to ignore these words from St. Paul this weekend in one of his most poetic writings to the people of Corinth. If you’ve been to a wedding, you’ve probably heard it used as couples make that commitment. But it wasn’t written for weddings, unless we’re speaking about Paul’s only desire for union with God. The reading is a self-examination of his own life and where and when he falls short of being that love. Paul understands and believes, at the very core of his being, and the core of everyone, is love, and that never fails. Yet, we know from our own lives that seeking love is never easy and comes with great cost and great commitment. As much as it never fails it’s also not so simple to understand.
Jeremiah is one such person that struggles with it. Jeremiah, along with us at times, wants love on his own terms. As a matter of fact, he wants nothing to do with Love because he’s already aware of what’s being asked. He must wrestle with the idea and the reality of love because he also knows, once it’s been found, his life is changed forever. He can never go back because nothing is ever going to fill that longing that love does. It’s only in the moment of surrender that he finally begins to become love. He thinks he’s too young. He doesn’t think he has what it takes to be the person he’s being called to be. All he can see is the pain and the rejection it’s going to afford him. He wants love on his terms, but then it’s not love. It’s the examination that Paul addresses, a gong and clashing cymbal, all talk without love. Jeremiah was going to have to surrender to Love in order to become and be love and he does. His life is changed forever. Jeremiah becomes what he had been called to be, one of the great prophets we celebrate in the Old Testament. He becomes the voice, despite the rejection and the cost, of how Israel needed to change it’s ways. They had become comfortable with fear. They had become comfortable and complacent with war and hate. But as Paul reminds us, that all passes. It is only love that never fails and that remains eternal, otherwise it’s not love.
Jesus, of course, is Love. And as we begin this weekend in the gospel all seems fine. They love what they have to hear. But they only hear what they want to hear. They only see what they want to see. As Paul challenges himself and us, we then remain shallow, surface people, without much depth to go with it. All of that will be brought to nothing, he says. But then, without even being aware of what was happening, Jesus turns the tables on the people gathered in the synagogue. In some bizarre twist, Love has no borders and seems, in the stories Jesus says, to go beyond and even come with greater awareness beyond Israel. Of course, the chosen people are infuriated with him and want to throw him off a cliff! It becomes the downward journey in the life of Jesus who will pay the ultimate price for Love. As we move towards Lent, the crowds grow more restless when it becomes the reality that it’s not love that brings them together, but rather hatred and fear. Is it not the same today? Why is it that we humans are more attracted to the dark, to hatred and fear? We see that in our culture and certainly in our politics. Maybe they point us to the reason today. Maybe we too are aware, like Jeremiah, of just what it costs to choose the greater way, the more excellent way, as Paul states. We can’t face the demand that it places before us. But like Jeremiah, once we find it within, nothing else will satisfy, nothing else will fulfill the longing from within. All we can do is surrender to it and our lives are changed for ever.
Paul provides this great poetry to us today and warrants a look on our part to see where we have come up short. We all have and all we can do is become more aware of it, and like Jeremiah, continue to surrender to Love. It does come with great cost but the cost of not surrendering to it is even greater, a life less lived and a world that never benefits from it. It’s not just about doing things. Paul is even aware of that in his own life. Anyone can do good, know much, have faith, but without love, he says, I am nothing. Nothing. It is only love that never fails. The demand of love is not just about doing and having the right words, it’s also facing the cost of the commitment to love, and the more I surrender to it, nothing else matters, because the more I become love and I become the man God has created me to be, to become love and most importantly, to be love. Love never fails.