The greatest of these is love...
What are the limits of love?
In this Sunday’s first reading, Jeremiah is called a prophet to the nations, suggesting the universality of salvation: God’s love is for all. And God insists to Jeremiah that he will be with him always, throughout all suffering and pain: God is his strength: I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord. The elderly psalmist also looks to God for strength, trusting in God’s love: you are my hope, O Lord (Ps. 71). The psalmist knows his relationship with God is eternal; that relationship is life-giving. He seeks to erect no walls between himself and God.
A desire to express the universality of God’s love drives Jesus’ exchange with members of the synagogue in his own native place in this week’s gospel from Luke. At first the community is amazed and impressed, and asks for signs like those he has performed elsewhere. Jesus speaks to their core, recognizing a fundamental problem: the limitations they want to impose on God’s love. Referring to both the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian, Jesus suggests that the Gentiles will receive God’s good news where they, the Jewish community, will not: no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Fearing this will take away their identity as God’s chosen people, they turn on him, only to have Jesus turn and pass through the midst of them and [go] away. Their wall is constructed of fear and jealousy; there is no place for love.
What are the limits of love? Being human, we impose many of our own: we set up walls between self and other or between self and God that prevent love from being shared. But in God’s terms, in God’s perfect kingdom, there aren’t any limits, and there shouldn’t be any. God’s love is for all, and the love we experience, we are to share. Love is patient, love is kind... Love never fails (1 Cor). We are called, therefore, to love, to love past the walls, and we can – when whatever we do is infused with the love of God.
This reflection is based on Fr. Pat's Thursday Scripture class.