4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not jealous or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on having its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrong doing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. Prophecies will come to an end; tongues will be silent; knowledge will pass away…. There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.

This much-beloved excerpt from Paul's Letter to the Corinthians is a literary gem that frequently graces both secular and religious weddings. Paul's purpose in writing this, however, was not to elevate marital love but to present The Way of Love , in other words, a way of loving rightly in imitation of Christ. The community in Corinth had failed to live this love. There were factions among the believers, lapses into idolatry, disorderly conduct during Eucharistic celebrations, discrimination against the poor, claims of superiority on account of spiritual gifts and, perhaps worst of all, the community's failure to deal with a member who was living in incest. Paul greets the Church in Corinth warmly, as its spiritual father; he then addresses each of the problems, urging the Corinthians to return to Christ. His Way of Love is the blueprint they --and we-- are to follow.

And what is this Way ? The opening lines of 1 Cor: 1-13 are so familiar -- "Love is patient, love is kind...." "Patience" seems strangely old fashioned, perhaps because it is seldom talked about; however, it is a necessary charism that involves allowing others their own process-- time to grow, time to learn from mistakes, time to accomplish some task.... Instead of becoming irritated because someone else is too slow, we need to offer encouragement and support, creating the atmosphere which will allow people to thrive, in their own way, according to their schedules, not ours. Just as God is patient with each of us, forgiving our failings and offering new beginnings, over and over again, so we, too, need to be patient with others. As for being "kind," the translation seems understated. I understand it to mean more than being "kindly disposed" or "kind-hearted," but to be so impelled by the love of God that we respond as God would to our brothers and sisters in need. In other words, we learn to love as God loves rather than in a limited, human way. Perhaps "kind" is closer to "charity," and is more of an action verb than a feeling.

Then follow negative qualities that are the opposite of supernatural Love: jealousy, boastfulness, arrogance, rudeness, stubbornness, irritability, and resentment. These, of course, are vices that have surfaced in the community in Corinth, but they are omnipresent, even to this day. The common denominator with these vices is that they come from the ego or the "false self." The egotistical self is a megalomaniac who cannot tolerate anyone else being center stage or even sharing the limelight; puffed up with pride, this false self of ours feels more powerful when it makes others small. Instead of raising others up, it kicks them down, keeping them in the dust.

In contrast, Love does no harm because it cannot. When one sees as God sees and loves as God loves, then it is impossible to sin. When we live Love, we live on a supernatural plane rather than a mere natural plane. We develop the spiritual capacity to believe, hope, and endure all things in Christ and because of Christ. By loving we become Love. Our finite self becomes the Christ-Self -- and that self is eternal!

  1. Why is Love greater than Faith and Hope?
  2. How has the Megalomaniac Self surfaced in your life?
  3. How does the Christ-Self manifest in your life?
  4. What must YOU do to follow the Way of Love more closely?