By Larry Peterson
Many love the Mass, and I count myself among them. What transpires during this splendid celebration of life, death, resurrection, and redemption is what we call the Mystery of Faith. We honor the life of Christ; we journey with Him as He is tortured and killed, and we rejoice in His Resurrection, which heralds our salvation. United, we all say in one voice, “We proclaim Your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.”
As often as possible, I attend daily Mass and have been doing so for many years. I have heard many sermons at these Masses. However, I have something to admit, something I am not proud of; I rarely remember homilies. I do not know why that is. I did some research, and according to the Pew Research Center, the average length of a Catholic homily is 14 minutes. (Mainline Protestants are at 25 minutes; Evangelicals at 39 minutes).
One-third of Catholics say they are “very satisfied” with homilies, while fifty-two percent say they are ‘somewhat satisfied. Fifteen percent say they are ‘not at all satisfied.” Statistics on those who “did not remember” sermons eluded me. Therefore, I assume that there are others out there that are in the non-remembering category like me.
Then came Wednesday, September 13, 2020. HALLELUJAH—-a homily that STUCK. And it was about LOVE—and what is the Mass about? It encompasses the Greatest LOVE. And the purity of it all was simply splendid. It all was because of 1 Corinthians 12:31 and 13:1-13.
Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians is read in its entirety during this Mass. I will only focus on verses 4 thru 7. This is where Father Kevin (our pastor) tied together these verses that made them (at least for me) most memorable. He presented it in such a way that I now believe this part of the reading should be made available to all Catholics, including children, as a tool to teach us what love truly means. I’m a senior citizen and I have heard this reading many times. My wife and I even chose it for a reading at our Nuptial Mass. And the wonder of these words never clicked in for me until Father Kevin gave us this easy technique to use. It was a simple case of adding and subtracting. Let me explain.
The reading from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 is as follows: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interest, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoings but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Now, here comes the adding and subtracting with the subtracting coming first. What we simply do is take the word LOVE and references to LOVE i.e.: “It is” or “it does not” out of the reading. and replace each removal with our own name. See the sample below. My name, LARRY, will replace the word LOVE. See what happens.
“LARRY is patient, LARRY is kind. LARRY is not jealous, LARRY is not pompous, LARRY is not inflated, LARRY is not rude, LARRY does not seek HIS own interest, LARRY is not quick-tempered, LARRY does not brood over injury, LARRY does not rejoice over wrongdoings but rejoices with the truth. LARRY bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
The short reading about LOVE becomes a personal self-help tool. Having your name replace the abstract word, LOVE, might help us refocus, get our bearings, check our emotions, and remind us how God wants us to be. He wants us to be like Him, and God is LOVE. Imagine having this for not only yourself but also your children. A printed card posted on the fridge with little Jack’s name or his sister Sally’s name written in place of the word LOVE could be a reference point. “Okay, kids, enough! Go read the cards. See who you really are.”
This could be our personal reality check about Jesus and LOVE. After a while, it would stick inside all our heads. We adults might have business-size cards in our pockets or wallets with this printed on it. If you are having a trying moment, reach for your card, and read it.
Interestingly, the Responsorial Psalm for the day was Psalm 33. “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be His own.” Yes, that is us and being counted among the chosen requires all the self-help tools we can have. One final thought, I timed it , and it only took me fifteen seconds to read it.
Semper meminisse, est amor Dei (Always remember, God is Love)
copyright©Larry Peterson 2020