Grace to you!
We continue our reflection on 1 Corinthian. Today, we focus on love as the greatest of all gifts.
Every now and then, events happen that reveal the beauty of human life transformed by the grace of God. Every now and then, amidst shattering news concerning the Church and her integrity in the world, we have living testimonies of sacrifices worth sharing. Such is the news that broke three days ago, from the eastern part of Nigeria.
September 16, a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Onitsha, Fr. Charles Chukwukelue Ebele drowned in the River Niger. The River Niger is the major river in West Africa, covering about 2600 miles running through the Guinea highlands to the borders of Mali and Niger Republic across the Gulf of Guinea into the Atlantic Ocean. It is the 3rd largest river in Africa.
Sometimes, the river can be turbulent as to pose danger. Unfortunately, the river became so turbulent that the boat in which Fr. Ebele was began to capsize. The priest noticed that another person in the boat may not have a chance of surviving if the boat sank. He undid his life vest and gave it to him.
The boat finally capsized. The priest couldn’t make it before the coast guards arrived. He gave his life for another. He died for sacrificial love. He is the most recent example of heroic love comparable to Saint Maximilian Kolbe’s. He is a real case of the Titanic moving story.
Stories of love touch us in most profound ways. In those stories we connect at a deeper level, to the best of human aspirations. Such was the most moving reality of God’s love. We are moved to read how God so loved us to the point of the Son giving his life for us (Jn 3:16).
It is the purest love that lets oneself be poured out for others. A life for others is a true testament of pure love. Such is the greatest.
Saint Paul writes to the Corinthian Church and to us about the nature, necessity and the role of the spiritual gifts in the Church (I Cor 12) [See yesterday’s reflection for my thoughts on this].
Next, he speaks of the greatest of these gifts, namely love (1 Cor 13:13). Of course, we know that love is one of the most misunderstood words today—from mere emotional or sensual connection to friendship or family ties, etc., an issue I don’t want to discuss here.
However, if we see love as that which springs from God because “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8), if we see love as that which unites and binds us together as children of God, if we see love as that which makes us live not for ourselves alone but for others, if we see love as living in such a way that we are able to see in our most inner selves my neighbor as God’s image, and relate to that neighbor based on the love of God, then we are living in love.
Saint Paul gives us at least thirteen criteria to measure the quality of our love. He writes: “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:4-7).
Hence, to measure the extent of my love, these could serve as a prayerful meditation and question for me: To what extent am I patient with others, especially the ones that drive me crazy? To what extent do I show kindness to those who, in my opinion, do not deserve it? Am I bitterly jealous of others, their gifts and accomplishments? Am I boastful of the gifts or blessings I have? Etc.
Perhaps, a prayerful reflection on 1 Cor 13:1-13 this week, could help us to think more deeply about the quality of our love.
May the Lord give us the grace to love as we are loved in God. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday Week 24, Ordinary Time: 1 Cor 12:31-13:13; Lk 7:31-35]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.