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Learning Love

Pentecost 14

First reading: Song 2:8-13; Ps. 45:1-2, 7-10 Alternate: Deut. 4:1-2, 6-9; Ps. 15 • James 1:17-27 • Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

When faith starts, it may start in apparent folly; it may start as unbridled love. Love loses a certain dignity, takes indiscriminate risks, is a seasonal madness. The voice of my beloved comes to me, jumping on the mountains and skipping over hills. He stands at the wall and stares through the window. He whispers, “Arise, my dear, my dove, my beauty, and come.” He justifies his summons with the birthing of new life. “The winter is past; the rains have come and gone; flowers appear in the land.” God is love, and so God jumps and looks and calls, bidding us come to living water with love’s prolixity, in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.

Love, says the poet, leaps upon the hill. Thus Love comes down, bringing every perfect gift, descending from the Father of Lights in whom there is neither transmutation nor vicissitude of shadow (James 1:17). Love is the Word of truth planted within from which comes forth the first fruits of creation. The implanted Word yields deeds — the exercise of pure religion, visiting orphans and widows in their tribulation and remaining unstained from the world. Love begets loving action, hearing and doing.

Love seeks binding commitment, a covenant of stability, a rock upon which to build a home: “Until we are parted by death.” Thus Love employs commandments and ordinances. “Now, O Israel, hear the precepts and judgments which I teach you, that doing them you may live, and going in, you may possess the land, which the Lord God of your fathers has given to you” (Deut. 4:1-2). The Gospel belongs to every land; in every place the disciples of Love ask, “What shall we do?” Yet Love has not imparted a spirit of timidity that we should fall into fear; it urges us to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest. Love looks at what the Church has confessed and taught and inspires fidelity and obedience. It is a perfect law of liberty (James 1:25).

Love is not slavish and leaden, impenetrable or unyielding. It perseveres in the work of restoration. Occasionally, Love wrecks a rule, having learned the words of the elders: “Nothing entering a man from the outside is able to defile him, but what comes out of a man is what defiles him” (Mark 15). It corrects and rebukes.

Love calls out, leaping and dancing, to show a more excellent way. It looks and names with tender affection, and the earth’s fair beauty and Love’s insistence urge us on. Together we seek a new home and new life, fresh and firm: alive, anchored in obedience.

Love is Jesus Christ our Lord.

Look It Up
Read Song of Solomon 2:10.

Think About It
What does a bishop do in and out of retirement? Leap upon the hills, hear Love’s summons, bear Love’s wounds.


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