“If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal…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…At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:1, 4-8b, 12b-13).
These words are often read in the wedding Mass, a time when we are full of hope and promise and unaware of all the ways we might actually be tested in love. We grow in love as time goes by and learn to rely on the grace that comes through the sacrament of marriage in order to live these words. We then discover that motherhood brings us to a deeper level of sacrifice with more opportunities (and challenges) to live out these beautiful words of 1st Corinthians. Every day we have the occasion to show love through our patience and kindness, often when we are depleted of all the human comforts that help us be kind, like sleep! As our children grow, we find ourselves turning again and again to these words, praying for the grace to be patient and kind, not to be quick-tempered or to lose hope. And if tragedy comes, we pray for the grace to bear all things, to believe, to hope, and to endure all things.
And then we begin to teach these truths to our children. They will ingest most of this way of life because we have lived it with them, but we must also teach them more actively, especially as they learn the right ways to live with their brothers and sisters. As children spend more time in the world, which is mainly school, they learn the hard lesson that most people they meet will not relate with them in the way that they were taught at home. They learn that even so, they should not be inflated, rude, or selfish. These are hard lessons for us, so let us have compassion and patience as we help our children to learn these.
To me, the most hopeful part of Paul’s reflection is the reminder that we see only partially now. Our children will encounter suffering and hardship, and we suffer with them, yet love endures all things and rejoices in the truth. We arm our children with love of the truth and with the sure knowledge that love cannot fail. In the end, all that remains is faith, hope and love. This world is not our home, and by teaching our children to love, we are preparing them for their eternal home in heaven. May we live out the greatest of these in our homes. May our domestic churches be the bedrock of love for our children and for the world.
PRAYER: Lord help me to speak and act with your love at all times. I don’t want to be a clashing cymbal, I want to live in love always. Only by your grace can I bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things. Lord, your love never fails; help me to abide in your love forever. Amen.