A Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Tough Love by Linda Sannuti
On the last Sunday of each month the deacon at Good Shepherd Parish preaches at all the masses so I had no preaching assignment this weekend. Here, however, is a homily from 9 years ago on today's scripture...

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Audio for homily

How many folks have heard St. Paul’s words on love at a wedding?
Probably nine out ten couples choose today’s second scripture
as a reading for their wedding:
perhaps because the word “love” appears in it eight times;
or because the text promises a “love never fails;”
or because it reminds us that of “faith, hope and love,”
the greatest virtue is love.
Of course, St. Paul wasn’t writing to an engaged couple here
he doesn’t have a wedding or married life in mind.
He wasn’t writing to a bride and groom but rather
to a whole church community.
He wasn’t instructing couples on how to live as spouses
but rather he was teaching Christians how to live with one another
as the body of Christ in the community of the church.
We often hear these words surrounded by “white lace and promises”
and flowers and beautiful music,
but the love described here is not at all romantic,
and not in the least sentimental.
This is a tough love: it’s demanding, it’s muscular, and it bleeds.
• St. Paul tells us that no matter how sweet our words,
no matter how poetic or beautiful or well chosen –
even if we speak like angels – if we don’t have love,
we’re only making noise: useless, jarring noise.
• St. Paul tells us that
no matter how intelligent or smart or clever we might be,
regardless of how much we understand,
how much knowledge we have,
no matter how deep or strong our faith might be,
if we don’t love one another: We. Are. Nothing.
• Generosity?
Paul says, “If I give everything I have to the poor
and even lay down my life for some great cause
but fail to love: then I gain nothing.”
And my generosity is empty.
• If I love, then I’m patient and I’m kind,
especially to those who strain my patience and test my kindness.
Who would that be in your life today? I know who it is in my life!
• If I love, then I’m not jealous of any thing or any love
any other person has --
regardless of how badly I might feel about what I have or don’t have.
• If I love I’m not pompous or filled up with myself but rather,
I put others and their needs ahead of my own.
Whose needs are waiting for your attention, for my attention – today?
• If I love I’m not rude or mean,
even when others are rude and mean to me.
• If I love I’m not quick-tempered,
regardless of who or what provokes me.
• If I love I don’t spend my time or my energy 
feeling sorry for myself and brooding over how I hurt.
• If I love I take no joy, no smug delight, no pleasure in what’s wrong
or in wrong that’s done to others --
regardless of their politics, their theology, their ideology, their success.
• If I love then I desire and rejoice in finding and knowing the truth:
in telling the truth, in living the truth, in sharing the truth
• If I love, then I will bear all things,
no matter how heavy the load might be
because real love is always stronger than my greatest weakness.
• If I love, then I believe all things, not naively,
but with a thirst for wisdom and a hunger for truth.
• If I love, then I hope all things (especially when I feel hopeless)
because I trust that hope, in love, will never disappoint.
• If I love, then I endure all things, not for pain’s sake
but for the sake of that love that forgives and heals all pain. 
This is a tough love: it’s demanding, it’s muscular, and it bleeds.
Anything less than this brand of love is as nothing:
“a resounding gong, a clashing cymbal.”
With any lesser love, a less demanding love,
a weaker love, a love that will not bleed for others,
we are nothing and we gain nothing.
St. Paul tells us this kind of love never fails.
That doesn’t mean that love will always give us what we want
but it does mean that real love will never fail to teach us
what we truly need and what we really need to give.
Love like this is a universe away from “random acts of kindness,”
as fine as they might be.
This love is intentional: selfishness is not in its vocabulary.
Such love will never fail to unite us to God and to one another.
Love like this is greater than faith and greater than hope.
In fact, without such love,
there is no cause for faith, there is no reason to hope.
With such love,
faith and hope find their meaning and substance
and love unites them, for ever.
The greatest sign of such love hangs above our prayer every Sunday:
the Cross of Jesus.
No greater, tougher love have we ever known than Christ’s love for us.
The love of Jesus is demanding, it’s muscular and it bleeds – for us.
The gift of his love on the Cross
is the gift we are offered and receive in the Eucharist
because the sacrifice of his love on the Cross
is the sacrifice we offer at this altar.
All of us have within us an indistinct, partial image
of the love God offers us in Christ.
The Eucharist is a perfect mirror of God’s love for us in Jesus.
Pray that we will grow together
to love one another in this kind of love,
that we will grow in understanding fully how we are loved by God
so that faith and hope and love will remain
and be with us and be ours, always.


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