At Mass today, I discovered the most thorough description of God I have ever heard. It was contained in the second reading, verses from a chapter I’ve read or listened to many times before. But like tumblers inside a combination lock, something clicked in my head today that never clicked before. Here is what I’m referring to:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Like a lot of people, I originally was introduced to this reading at a wedding. I even have a painting in my home highlighting this verse. Maybe I’m just admitting thickheadedness, but of all the times I have encountered this gem from St. Paul, none ever hit me between the eyes like today.
We have all heard before that God is Love. Inserting God’s name in place of either “Love” or “It” in these Corinthians verses, brought me new understanding of the person of God.
God is patient, God is kind. God is not jealous, God is not pompous, God is not inflated, God is not rude, God does not seek His own interests, God is not quick-tempered, God does not brood over injury, God does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God never fails.
Nice isn’t it? Even though the entire Bible speaks to, and adds understanding of, God’s personhood, we live in a drive-through culture. We communicate in sound bites. This Executive Summary of God’s heart and mind works very well for people like me, who are always looking for the bottom line, the heart of every matter.
Since God has revealed himself to be three distinct persons in one, any of His names works just as well. Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind….The Holy Spirit is not rude, The Holy Spirit does not brood over injury….God the Father never fails, Jesus Christ never fails, The Holy Spirit never fails!
When I re-read this passage in this manner, I can see how the Holy Spirit continues to work with humanity’s shortcomings while guiding the Church through the ages. To look upon this passage this way helps me see how Jesus could endure the brutality of His passion and not be pompous when He later walked out of His tomb. And I can also start to grasp how God our creator could love us so much, that he would go to unthinkable lengths to keep us close, while giving us the freedom to reject Him.
It is said we are made for love. We are made to love and to be loved. I now have a better view of what the intention is. St. Paul ends the thirteenth chapter of first Corinthians by comparing love with faith and hope.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Yes, the greatest of these is God. Indeed.