By Sarah Cornwell
A Reading from 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
Though this passage is more often associated with weddings, what would it mean for our world if we heard it more often at graduations? Consider these words woven into a commencement address: “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
We live in a world of constant information. In order to get a word in edgewise, there can be an underlying pressure to state one’s views digitally more boldly than one otherwise would in person. With algorithms that can privilege negativity, our contributions to the conversations of our day start to become arrogant and rude. We feel pressure to self-promote because it seems the only way to make it in our field. Instead of boasting, we humble-brag. Yet all of that self-promotion will gain us precisely nothing if we do not go about it with love.
In a world that travels at high speed, we must be patient. In a world that privileges the worst interpretation of our neighbor’s actions, we must find the kindest interpretation. Love rejoices in the truth, even if that means we are in the wrong. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. Those things are childish, and as our passage says, “When I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” Love bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. Our most prestigious degrees, every influential paper we write, every post that goes viral, every tweet that trends, all of it will end, decaying into dust, and so too will we. It is essential that we tell our children who are graduating and entering the world, and indeed to remind ourselves, that we are called to put an end to our childish ways and ensure that the work we do does not amount to nothing. And the only way to do this is through love.
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have six children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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