20 September 2006: Wednesday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time
1 Cor 12, 31-13,13; Psalm 33, 2-5, 12, 22; Luke 7, 31-35
Many claim that the 1st reading from the Letter of Paul to the Corinthians is the most wonderful chapter in the New Testament. It is used very often in weddings and quoted in love notes. It will take a lifetime, however, to fully excavate its meaning. Paul tells us that a person may possess many gifts, but if it is without love, then that gift is useless. For example, one may have the gift of tongues, but does not have love, it is worthless. The gift of tongues is a characteristic of pagan worship of the gods Dionysius and Cybele. It is accompanied by the clanging of cymbals and the sound of trumpets. The gift of tongues was for the Romans a most coveted gift. But Paul tells the Corinthians that even with the most desirable gift, if they do not love, they are worthless. We can interpret it this way: a person may be a good-talker or a cultured conversationalist or even an intellectual, but if he or she does not love, his or her words are empty. Walang laman, walang kagat. Moreover, a person may practice charity, but without love, it is useless. A person may give dole-out goods, as a duty, sometimes with some contempt, like throwing out leftovers to a stray dog, is not genuine charity. It is arrogance, not love. In the end, what makes our talents meaningful are what make them enduring.
Paul lists fifteen characteristics of Christian love. We shall choose a few. First, love is patient. The Greek word, makrothumein, is used to describe patience with people and not patience with circumstances, as waiting for the bus. It describes the person who is slow to anger and it is used to describe God’s relationship with people. Hindi madaling magalit. Mahaba ang pasensya. Such patience is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. Only the person with a very strong heart can withstand the intensity of our emotions especially anger. Second, love is not envious. There are two kinds of envy. One is the one who wish that they have what another possesses. Naiingit ako sa kanya dahil mataas ang grades niya at ako hindi. The other is worse; it grudges the very fact that others should have what one has not. Minamasama ko ang pagkakaroon ng ibang tao. “Hmp, nagpunta lang yan sa Saudi, kaya yumaman sila.” Finally, love never flies into a temper. The real meaning of this passage is that we are never exasperated with people and with circumstances. We are people of hope and therefore, we always hope in people. If we forgive a person who has hurt us, we actually mean that we hope in him or her. Forgiveness is giving another chance for someone whom we believe can also change. If we can master our tempers, then we can control anything.
When we stayed glued to the television series such as Pangako sa ‘Yo, Bakekang, and Bituing Walang Ningning, we believe in what Paul says, “Love can endure anything.” Love can bear any insult, any injury, any disappointment, any pain, any suffering, and any trial. At the end of the day, what matters is that we love.
And so today, we first name those we love. Who are they? Identify them. And then, look at the quality of our love by evaluating it according to the characteristics given by St. Paul. However, if we find ourselves like noisy cymbals or like people in the marketplace as Jesus describes the present generation — us — in the Gospel today, do not lose hope. As Christians we always believe that today — and every day for that matter — is the best time to put some heart into our relationships.