1Cor 12:31-13:13; Ps 33:2-5,12,22; Lk 7:31-35
Wondrous is the mystery of the call of the LORD. Like Israel of old who was no nation and was called to be a nation from the slavery of Egypt, so have we been called. Once we were no people, now we are God’s People. Like our ancestors in the faith, we have been called not because we were a great and strong nation. In our weakness we have been chosen. Each one of us has asked, at one moment or another, “Why me? Why did the LORD choose me?” We never learn the answer to this question; it is always hidden in the mystery of the love of God. All we know is that the LORD has chosen us to be his own inheritance. So we give thanks to the LORD upon the harp and with a ten stringed lyre we chant praises. We sing a new song; we pluck the strings skillfully with shouts of gladness. Indeed, upright is the word of the LORD, and all his works are trustworthy. He has revealed the mystery of his presence and the mystery of his love for us. The LORD is truth, and all that he has revealed is worthy of all our trust. The LORD loves justice and right; of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full and overflowing. In our being chosen is our true blessedness; in his kindness is our only hope, for the LORD has chosen us to be his own. Like the believers in Corinth we too are summoned by The Apostle to strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts, and we do not linger in the deadly pit of lethargy and the consuming pool of self-pity. Indeed, it is all too easy for us to never have any expectations of God, and then we are not as disappointed. Even in our hopeless and listless condition the LORD continues to play the flute and sing the dirge. Perhaps during this Liturgy we will hear the music from above, and respond running after the greatness promised.
In a community filled with new converts from a pagan culture, the Apostle Paul encountered many who were seeking a secure identity. They did not come from generations of the covenant, from years of prophecy and wisdom. The manifestation of spiritual gifts fascinated their newborn religious imaginations. These men and women wanted every spiritual gift, and they wanted them yesterday. Such a hunger and thirst for things spiritual can become other than a search for God. Sometimes the gifts are used to build up fragile egos. When this happens then the gift and the Giver are confused. When this happens some begin to worship the gifts and ignore the Giver of the gifts. Saint Paul writes to a community plagued by just such a danger. He writes about the greatest of spiritual gifts, love. His wisdom unfolds in a poetic witness of his own experience of love. Saint Paul is nothing if he does not love more than he uses gifts of prophecy, and of knowledge of all mysteries. Saint Paul gains nothing if he has not love more than possessions, or even his own body. All else fails as time goes by; love never fails. All foreknowledge and prophetic gifts cease and are brought to nothing. These things, powerful and exciting as they are, they are only partial and will pass away. Now we see only indistinctly, in the future we will know even as we are known. In the Kingdom of God faith becomes sight, hope becomes fulfillment, and love, love remains love. Indeed, love is the greatest of all spiritual gifts.
Another comparison between the Forerunner and the Messiah arises in the gospel of Saint Luke. Earlier this evangelist compares these two at their conceptions, and later Saint John becomes, for Christ and for us, a glimpse of the glory of the Cross. Now, the Lord Jesus challenges the crowds who found fault with both the Baptist and the Christ. Indeed, the Lord Jesus sees the crowd as immature and superficial; the crowd lacks wisdom. The theme of repentance in John’s preaching is too dirge-like, and the crowd is not amused. The theme of the arrival of the Kingdom in the preaching of Christ is too festive, and the crowd is too amused. The Baptist is severe, and the Christ is a glutton and a drunkard, and worse yet a friend of tax collectors and sinners. The crowd does not know whether to revel or to repent. The crowd is confused and befuddled. The crowd will always be lost until each member of the crowd leaves and is born again as repentant children, who revel in the wisdom banquet of the Body and Blood of Christ, who still eats and drinks with sinners.