If I do not have love, I am nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude. Love does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
My reflections here are based very much on discussions which took place at the World Meeting of Families Pastoral Congress held in Dublin, Ireland, this past August. Most people desire to live better our vocation as family, in that way opening ourselves to true happiness, the kind that nothing can spoil. The Scriptural quotation above comes from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, where Paul states that of faith, hope and love, the greatest is love. In 1 Corinthians 13:2 Paul writes: “If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” Of itself, faith, total trust in God, is nothing if I do not have love. It is only by loving that I make faith real.
The passage from 1 Corinthians is the inspiration for the heart of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation to families and which, not by accident, is entitled Amoris Laetitia, the Joy of love. But what is love, and how are we to understand its place in our families? Chapter four of Amoris Laetitia presents, in a very concrete way, the various aspects of love, taking as a starting point the Hymn to Love in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.
I exist, we exist, as individuals, and as families, because we are loved, thought of from eternity, desired by God the Father to be part of his project of love which is not closed in on itself, in our individualism; not an ‘I and you’ but a ‘we’. We exist as family only if we give this love, which multiplies and generates life.
How are we to live this? Is it a recipe for perfection? If so, then it is not for me, nor for those who live with the challenges and limitations we have to cope with every day, given that we are not always patient, we are proud, we get angry, we lack respect, we’re not ready to excuse and to believe and to endure all things!
Hopefully, we can leave behind our preconceptions and notions of respectability regarding couples and marriage, or what we have imagined to be the ideal, perfect family. The ideal is to live fully what we’ve been given to live, not in any theoretical sense, but in the here and now. We are called to live accepting in an open way what providence offers as good for me, for us as a couple, as a family, as a small church group in which Jesus calls us, meets us, loves us. In everything it is love that keeps us on our feet!