1 Corinthians 12:31–13:13;Psalm 33:2-5, 12, 22; Luke 7:31-35
Saint Januarius, Bishop and Martyr
“Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8)
Paul’s beautiful “Hymn of Charity,” as 1 Corinthians 13 is often called, portrays a mature love filled with spiritual vitality. It is not the textbook definition of love that we find in the dictionary but rather a soaring poem that expresses what Christian love looks like as it is lived out day by day. It is patient and kind rather than irritable; it serves the needs and interests of others, not insisting on its own way; it is not quick-tempered; and neither does it brood over injuries.
It’s important to know that Paul wrote this vigorous call to love to the Corinthians, a community that was plagued by division, competition, and immorality. He urged them to let the love of Christ that they had experienced so powerfully at their conversion overcome their faults and heal their lack of unity. By appealing to love—especially to the example of Jesus, who loved us even on the cross—Paul appealed to their deepest desires and offered them the one sure way to overcome their sins and failings.
There’s little doubt that Paul had his own life in mind, too, as he wrote about growing out of childish ways into mature faith (1 Corinthians 13:11). Paul had started out as a hotheaded young Pharisee who persecuted Christians. It took some time, even after his conversion, for him to calm down. But over time, Paul grew into a committed lover of Jesus and a force for reconciliation and unity.
As we learn to yield to God’s love, just as Paul learned to yield, our love for the Lord and for one another will deepen. It will mature into a love that embraces God’s ways and binds us together in unity. We will come to reflect “the full stature of Christ.” No longer children, we “grow in every way into him who is the head.” We begin to live as part of his body, joined together so that we are not concerned only for ourselves but also for helping the whole church as it “builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:13-16).
We can walk in Christian charity—if we keep walking with Christ.
“Jesus, light the fire of your love in my heart! Burn brightly within me, so that I can love you with a pure love. Lord, I want to share your love with everyone around me!” ~WAU