Love is the Excellent Way of Life

#MyMassTakeaway for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Wow! – what an amazing segue from last week’s reading to this week’s.

Last week we heard about all the different spiritual gifts in the Body of Christ.

It’s edifying and powerful to think about our gifts, discover them, and use them to serve the Church. I cried like a baby when I did the discernment of charisms.

This week’s second reading pick up there.

It starts by saying: Yes, pursue all spiritual gifts.

Then it changes course: But I will show you a still more excellent way.

What is this way? This way is love. This is where St. Paul launches his famous discourse on love. Love is patient, love is kind…

We know the verses, they’re familiar to us. But think of the implications for a minute. What’s St. Paul saying here?

If You Have Not Love

You understand the mysteries of God? You have the deepest most profound faith? Cool. But if you don’t love, then you’re nothing.

Maybe you’re generous with your time and money. Maybe you’re the mom who gives her whole self to her children to the point of exhaustion. But if you don’t love, you get nothing in return.

It’s great that you have a gift of teaching, service, or hospitality, but if you don’t love then those gifts are wasted in you.

Without love, everything else amounts to nothing. We can’t stand on our spiritual gifts alone.

Think of the many stories of spiritual leaders whose ministries suddenly went awry. Television personas, leaders of religious movements, speakers of theology and evangelization – sometimes, something strange happens. They do or say or promote something that makes us scratch our heads and say “huh?” What happened there?

I’ll tell you what happened. St. Paul will tell you what happened. Their spiritual gifts ran ahead of their love. Their charisms got detached in someway from the virtue of charity.

Without love, our good works get derailed, our ministries go astray, our lives become empty.

Spiritual gifts aren’t everything. Spiritual gifts are fruitful in the measure that they’re united to love.

Love Unites Service to Relationship

As a wife and mom, I think of all the times I’ve given everything – and then some – to my husband and children.

I make them dinners and pack their lunches. I fold laundry and sweep floors and scrub countless dishes.

I serve and give and empty myself until there’s literally nothing left. “This is my vocation,” I tell myself, “This is how I serve God and my family.”

But I’ve forgotten to serve out of love, and I’ve begun to serve as a slave.

And suddenly I’m a crying heap on the kitchen floor. I feel so alone, I can’t do this anymore, and doesn’t anyone love me?!

Do they love me?

Or the real question, do I love them? Do I love them through my role as wife and mother, the heart of the home? Or am I setting myself up as the housemaid, the chef, the planner, the chauffeur?

It’s not simply service, but love of others that allows them to love us in return.

Service is a good way of life, but the way of love is the excellent way of life.

The way of love unites service to relationship.

Without love as the driving force behind the gifts, we find ourselves feeling worthless, emptied, wasted. We feel alone and we have no one to blame but ourselves. We cut ourselves off from the relationship that our spiritual gifts are meant to build.

Live the Excellent Way of Love

Today, let’s take back that excellent way of life.

Right now, look at your spiritual gifts. Look at your work, your service, your talents. Think of all the ways and times you devote yourselves to those gifts. That’s a good thing!

But now, ask yourself: where’s the love?

Do you pursue those gifts as an end in themselves? Do you serve for the sake of service? Clean for the sake of cleanliness? Teach for the sake of knowledge?

Rediscover the excellent way of love.

Let all your work start with love. Let love be the motivation and drive that upholds your work. And let your work end with love.

Love must always be there. Always.

Without love, your work, your gifts, your service – it’s may all fail. It may amount to nothing in your life and the lives around you. It may be time and energy wasted.

But love never fails.

Love is the most excellent way of life.

#MyMassTakeaway Linkup

#MyMassTakeaway is a community building hashtag. I encourage you to use it to share your thoughts about the Mass, Eucharist, and readings every Sunday.

Check out these reflections, and head over to Instagram to join!

@tojesussincerely

Here’s my takeaway (in shortened form) over on Instagram! I want to hear from you so head over to answer the questions:

  • How can you bring love back into every act of work and service in your life?
  • How does love make life more fulfilling, worthwhile, and even excellent?
View this post on Instagram

#MyMassTakeaway – The Excellent Way. You understand the mysteries of God? You have the deepest most profound faith? Cool. But if you don’t love, then you’re nothing. Maybe you’re generous with your time and money. Maybe you’re the mom who gives her whole self to her children to the point of exhaustion. But if you don’t love, you get nothing in return. It’s great that you have a gift of teaching, service, or hospitality, but if you don’t love then those gifts are wasted in you. Without love, everything else amounts to nothing. We can’t stand on our spiritual gifts alone. As a wife and mom, I think of all the times I’ve given everything – and then some – to my husband and children. I make them dinners and pack their lunches. I fold laundry and sweep floors and scrub countless dishes. I serve and give and empty myself until there’s literally nothing left. “This is my vocation,” I tell myself, “This is how I serve God and my family.” But I’ve forgotten to serve out of love, and I’ve begun to serve as a slave. And suddenly I’m a crying heap on the kitchen floor. I feel so alone, I can’t do this anymore, and doesn’t anyone love me?! Do they love me? Or the real question, do I love them? Do I loving them through my role as wife and mother, the heart of the home? Or am I setting myself up as the housemaid, the chef, the planner, the chauffeur? Service is a good way of life, but the way of love is the excellent way of life. The way of love unites service to relationship. Without love as the driving force behind the gifts, we find ourselves feeling worthless, emptied, wasted. We feel alone and we have no one to blame but ourselves. We cut ourselves off from the relationship that our spiritual gifts are meant to build. Today, let’s take back that excellent way of life. Reflection continued on the blog. Link in bio. Please hop on over to read! Then share your thoughts on these questions: How can you bring love back into every act of work and service in your life? How does love make life more fulfilling, worthwhile, and even excellent?

A post shared by Sara Estabrooks (@tojesussincerely) on

@spiritual.father

Sounds like this is going to be a really interesting homily! I’m going to make sure to check it out.

@goodportionco

“Less like a Hallmark card and more like the heart of an epic.” This is so true. Often, we hear today’s second reading at weddings and we’re filled with Hallmark sentiments. But this reflection is a reminder that love is so much more than that.

View this post on Instagram

"Love…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." . The more love I live, the more these words mean. Less like a Hallmark card and more like the heart of an epic. . A recurring theme that is very near and dear to me and my husband and the story of our love is that of being carved out, hollowed, emptied.. This is so often the form love takes, I think. As it bears and believes and hopes and endures, it dies to self, and surrenders much, and lets go control, and feels itself stretched and emptied and bared. And reborn. The deep-hollowed caverns become spaces into which we can receive more fully the gift – of self, of the other, of the Father. . This image captures so powerfully the beauty and mystery of this. I was in awe when I found it. I hope it can speak to your heart as well and embolden you to let yourself be hollowed out and filled. . (Photography by Omer Salom on Unsplash) . . . . . . . #goodportionco #bearsbelieveshopesendures #whatlovedoes #sundayscripture #sundayreflections #feedyoursoul #hollowedout #emptiedandfilled #caverns #reallove #selfgift #thegiver #lifeinchrist #catholiclife #liturgicalliving #rhythmandroots #prayerlife #scripturemeditation #scripturequotes #praywithscripture #bibleverse #catholicprayer #catholicmom #catholicmama #blessedmama #naturephotography #photoart #praylikeamother #ponder #maryponderedallthesethings

A post shared by The Good Portion Co. (@goodportionco) on

@vrlyfry

Rebecca shares her adorable baby and the reminder that each one of us is created by a loving God. We must fight against a culture that seeks to devalue life.

@ginnykochis

Ginny shares a message about love that’s “real, raw, and bold.” Love can be tough, but it’s just the thing God knows we need.

@cajuntexasmom

Wendy reminds us that today’s readings aren’t about what we think of as “romantic” love – but rather, “radical” love. She has the great idea to use this passage as an examination of conscience. I love it!

@hairbows4life

Did you know that you were made for greatness? Ceci reminds us that God is amazing and he loves you with an endless love.

@formedandfavored

Another beautiful (and timely) reminder of the sanctity of life.

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great post

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