You'll recall that last week I wrote about Fr. DeBruycker's homily on the unending covenant that is marriage. In the marriage covenant we see a reflection of the covenant that God formed with us; like that, the marriage covenant is intended to be an eternal one.
Fr. DeBruycker mentioned today that he'd been doing a lot of pre-marriage counseling lately, and so it wasn't a surprise that he began this morning's homily with what might seem otherwise to be a unusual choice, given today's readings: a reflection on Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians.
You know the passage - the one about how "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." It's almost a mandatory reading at weddings nowadays (oddly enough, although it's one of my favorite passages, we didn't use it at our wedding). But one wonders if the couples who select this reading really understand the depth of what Paul's talking about. As Fr. DeBruycker said, it appears to be full of touchy-feely stuff, the hearts-and-violins type of romantic love. But what is Paul really talking about?
The love to which Paul refers is the deepest type: that of commitment. The commitment that is found when one gives everything for another, when the other's well-being is all that one has in mind. It involves sacrifice, it requires keeping your word, and it indicates the desire to help another fulfill the richness of their life in God. In other words, it's the kind of commitment shown by Ruth in today's first reading: "for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God." And it is the love of which Jesus talks in today's Gospel: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." And "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets."
Ruth's commitment was to her husband and, after his death, to his mother Naomi. For her the promise she made did not end with death, but continued. Much like the covenant of God; much like the promise of Christ that transcended His death and continued through His Resurrection. And, perhaps no surprise, Ruth was the great-great-great-great-etc. grandmother of Jesus. I don't know about you, but I'd say that family had some pretty good traits being handed down.
Jesus assures us that commitments of this kind, based in a love for God, do not go unrewarded. The commitment and sacrifice shown by Ruth prefigures that shown by her kinswoman Mary, for which she was rewarded by the birth of her Son. It prefigures the love shown by Jesus on the Cross, which continues to this day. And if we follow her lead and commit ourselves to His Word, then we too shall be rewarded, as we reap the benefits of His sacrifice.
That's what Paul means when he talks about love. Newlyweds are often too caught up in the moment to appreciate it, because they are too much in love. But when the moment subsides, as it eventually does, a deeper kind of love will follow; and it is then, we pray, that the words of Paul will finally be understood.