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‘And the greatest of these is love.’

St. Paul’s prescription for challenging times

Love. Everyone seems to be talking about it. We hear about it in chats around the office coffee pot or in the lyrics of songs on the radio. Love certainly seems to be on the minds of many these days. We also know that love is nearly impossible to define. Perhaps the best we can do is describe it, so that we know it when we see it.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul writes one of the most well-known descriptions of love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous; love 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 Cor 13:4-8a)

St. Paul’s words describing love give us a way of thinking about love that goes beyond pure emotion or hormones. Using words, St. Paul begins to paint a picture of what true, Christ-like love looks like. In offering encouragement to the small Christian community in the bustling Greek seaport of Corinth, St. Paul encouraged them to think about love in terms beyond what they saw and experienced in their everyday living. He challenged them to see in one another the many ways in which God’s divine love for us can be reflected in daily life. He challenged them to love one another in ways that transcended what they witnessed in a busy, affluent city. He challenged the Christians of Corinth to love one another as Christ loves us. St. Paul presents that same challenge to us today and every day.

From all indications, the Year of Grace 2009 is going to present us with a host of challenges. Some of them will be economic. Some of them will be physical. Some of them will be political. Some of them will be emotional. Some of them will be spiritual. Above all, though, it seems to me that the new year also presents us with the renewed challenge and opportunity to love one another as Christ loves us. The likely challenges of 2009 could easily drive us apart from one another. Perhaps, instead, we can use St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians as an inspiration to bind ourselves even more closely to one another in the love of God. His words can also serve as a means for facing and overcoming those challenges through our shared faith.

Using St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians as a guide, we hope to combine modern images and contemporary words to paint a portrait of God’s love, vibrant and active among us to this day. His words will provide us with our themes for 2009. At the same time, we know that God’s love for us cannot be limited to words or photos on a page. God’s love for us cannot be limited even by time itself. My hope is that the stories we share in 2009 will help each of us to continue to know God’s love for us when we see it and experience it; and that in our seeing and experiencing God’s love, we will be drawn more deeply into loving relationship – with God and with one another. And so our journey in FAITH continues.