Wednesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(I Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 7:31-35)
A preacher once described the difficulty in preaching about love. He said something like, “The only place where we are sure what love means is in tennis. And there it means ‘nothing at all.’” St. Paul has some difficulty in speaking about love. In his famous “ode to love” making up the first reading today he makes no attempt to define it. Rather he gives a phenomenological description telling us first the importance of love, then its similarities and dissimilarities, and finally its uniqueness.
St. Thomas Aquinas affirmed that love animates the other virtues. This means, as Paul illustrates in the text, that faith and generosity will come to nothing if love does not shape their ends. Love saves faith from being ideology and makes it the way to eternal life. Similarly, it rescues generosity from wastefulness and allows us to resemble God, our Father.
Paul never equates God with love like the First Letter of John, but he seems on the verge of this conclusion when he writes that of the three enduring virtues, love is the greatest. Evidently, even in the Beatific Vision there will be need of faith, probably because God is an incomprehensible mystery, always beyond our understanding. We may wonder about the need for hope if in everlasting life the human person has fulfilled her or his goal. In any case, love is certainly the greatest theological virtue because it alone participates in God’s supreme activity.