Friday, July 26, 2013

Fr Georges Massouh: Love Never Fails

Arabic original here.

Love Never Fails

Christianity is based on the imitation of Christ and love is the pinnacle of that imitation. If we wanted to give a summary of the Christian religion in a single expression, we would say “Christianity is the religion of love.” There is no surprise in this, since Christ Jesus left only one commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

There is nothing in this commandment that is impossible and unrealizable, since Christ is certain that humans are capable of reaching the highest levels of love, of sacrificing themselves just as Christ sacrificed Himself freely on the cross: “No one has a greater love than to sacrifice himself for his loved ones” (John 15:13). But the sole standard for true love is not words but deeds: “Let us not love in word or tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18).

The Apostle Paul draws believers’ attention to the importance of their acquiring the grace of love, without which their various gifts become useless and devoid of their inherent spiritual content. After the Apostle enumerates the gifts necessary for building up the Church, he says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-2).

The important thing, then, is not for a person to be a brilliant teacher or a great prophet, scholar or person of prayer or faster or giver or even believer… but rather for him to be this in addition to having acquired love. The Apostle Paul repeats many times in the text of the epistle that any good thing that a person may do, if it is not based on love, is of no use.

The Apostle Paul teaches his pupils not to treat divine commandments as statutes or laws that must be fulfilled to the letter, but rather to apply them existentially and to practice them with total love and conviction. “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” This is how the Lord wants people to interact with the law—to adopt it and implement it with utmost love, as is necessary for their salvation and eternal life with God.

The Apostle Paul continues his words about love and defines it in the following way: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). It is not possible for one who is prideful, hateful, selfish, jealous, oppressive, or who thinks ill to love sincerely, even if from time to time he practices what looks like acts of love.
Love is a constant commitment to the human person that requires joy in giving without taking account and serving freely: “Freely you have received, give freely.” This requires refining nature and behavior and guarding the heart and mind against the passions.

As for acquiring all the virtues and their pinnacle, love, it begins with true repentance and submission to God’s will in all things. Acquiring love means acquiring Christ Himself.

No comments: