July 1, 2016

Rejoice in the Lord

Love in marriage requires patience, generosity and self-sacrifice

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin

“Love is patient, love is 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).

In the fourth chapter of “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis offers an inspiring and challenging reflection on the meaning of love in St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13:4-7). This is a familiar passage, one that is often read at weddings because it describes love in practical terms that have profound implications for daily life.

I encourage you to read “The Joy of Love”—all of it—but I especially recommend this fourth chapter titled “Love in Marriage.” I have never read a more inspiring commentary on this Pauline text. More importantly, I don’t think I’ve ever read a more powerful description of the meaning of love in marriage.

As Pope Francis tells us, “All that has been said so far would be insufficient to express the Gospel of marriage and the family, were we not also to speak of love. For we cannot encourage a path of fidelity and mutual self-giving without encouraging the growth, strengthening and deepening of conjugal and family love” (#89).

Love is all the things that St. Paul celebrates—patience, kindness, joy, fidelity, hope and endurance. Equally important, love is not jealousy, boastfulness, arrogance, rudeness, irritability, resentment or insistence on its own way.

Love is good, but it’s also hard. “Love always has an aspect of deep compassion that leads to accepting the other person as part of this world, even when he or she acts differently than I would like,” Pope Francis tells us (#92). To be loving means to look beyond our own wants and needs to the good of another—especially when this kind of self-giving is difficult for us.

“Love inspires a sincere esteem for every human being and the recognition of his or her own right to happiness,” the Holy Father writes (#96). Love abhors the suffering of others. It responds with gentleness and compassion to all forms of injustice. “Those who love are capable of speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation and encouragement,” Pope Francis teaches (#100).

Love endures injustice, insults and ill-treatment for the sake of the other, the beloved, but this does not mean that love is passive or indifferent. Genuine love is capable of fighting back in response to a grave injustice in order to care for and defend someone who has been abused. But love also reminds us that we should not cling to anger or resentment. Love is merciful—forgiving even those who persecute us. “When we have been offended or let down, forgiveness is possible and desirable, but no one can say that it is easy” (#106).

Families are called to be schools of love. “There is no family that does not know how selfishness, discord, tension and conflict violently attack and at times mortally wound its own communion: hence there arise many and varied forms of division in family life” (#106). Unless families work at practicing the art of love and learn to pass it on to future generations, there can be no hope for society as a whole. It certainly is true that “charity [love in action] begins at home.”

“When a loving person can do good for others, or sees others that are happy, they themselves live happily and in this way give glory to God, for ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Cor 9:7). Our Lord especially appreciates those who find joy in the happiness of others” (#110).

Love requires self-sacrifice, but it is never bitter or resentful. Why? Because “love does not despair of the future,” but is filled with hope and with the confidence that “though things may not always turn out as we wish, God may well make the crooked lines straight and draw some good from the evil we endure in this world” (#116). Love never gives up. It endures all things—relying on the grace of God to give us strength when our human weakness causes us to fail.

May we learn to love patiently and generously as Christ loves us. And may we forgive others—and ourselves—for our failures to live up to the marvelous vision of love that Pope Francis shares (courtesy of St. Paul) with us in Chapter 4 of “The Joy of Love.” †

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