If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Today is St. Patrick's feast day, celebrated here in the US, mostly as an occasion to drink in excess, to wear green and to celebrate all things Irish. In fact, St. Patrick was not Irish but rather captured as a slave in England and brought to Ireland as a teenager. He worked in harsh conditions, feeding the animals and probably sleeping in the rough. He eventually escaped and went back home to his family. But the story doesn't end there. He was ordained, returning to Ireland to bring the Gospel back to the people who enslaved him. He did not destroy their traditional holy places but honored them by making holy sites into church plants. He made the Gospel indigenous to Ireland. Instead of revenge he brought God's love and for that he is revered and honored by the Irish people.
This reading from Corinthians is probably the most common passage read at weddings. Yet the love that is referred to here is love that eclipses even the love that any couple, any family might have. This love, a gift from God, is the love that Patrick demonstrated, a love that moves beyond revenge and protection, to sharing openly and with great grace. It is the love of sacrifice and offering. A love, which, given by God, can only be shared. It is a love of daily forgiveness, of seeing people with the eyes and heart of God. It is a love which we humans can only see when it is shared, when another make room in their life for captors and friends alike. This is a day when we should be rededicating our lives to the service of others rather than drinking ourselves under the table. This is the love we have been given so freely and is most activated when we share freely.
Today, I ask God to help me be forgiving of all and grateful for all in my life. Like Patrick may we embrace the people and places we find ourselves, sharing God's love freely with captors and convicts, saints and sinners as well as this world that aches for the real embrace of a loving God.