The Word Embodied

Justice Done in Love

“[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”(Lk 4:21)

The stirring anthem to love found in Corinthians is most often heard at weddings. Sometimes at wakes.

I typically see tears among parishioners as the litany rolls on. ... Love is patient, kind, not envious or boastful, not rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not self-seeking or prone to anger. It does not brood over injuries. It rejoices with the truth. There is no limit to its forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure. ...

Perhaps the soul is stirred because we know how easily we fall short of its ideal in our relationships with those we propose to love and presume to mourn. But the tears are also consoling. Most of us have felt those wondrous moments when we tasted its truth; we have sensed the freedom of such love and felt its healing power.

The Corinthian passage is also personally consoling. For we know, no matter what our failings and insignificance, our God, who is love, the writings of John tell us, is ever kind and patient with us, endless in mercy, not prone to anger or resentful brooding.

A staggering thought, however, is that such love should mark the way we live as social beings. Christians must love others as God has loved us. And this, it seems, is a command of screaming impracticality.

There is much meanness in the world. There is much meanness in our culture. Is our faith germane to such a fact? Many say, “No. Keep your faith for pie in the sky, but keep it away from the ‘real world’ of class, race, nation, gender, and especially money.” Love is so alien to our politics, one might seem a simpleton to suggest it has its proper place.

A case can be made that our economic and social way of life is not only joyless, but unkind, impatient, and rude. Arrogance, boasting, and pomposity blight media and marketing. The sheer in-your-face of athletics and television talk shows typifies political posturing.

Not love forbearing, but resentment is parlayed by sectarians who would have us blame the rich, blame the poor, blame the parents, blame the lawyers.

Not love delighting in truth, but a cult of deception marks our social discourse, our slimy videos and exposés, our courtrooms, our Congress, and White House. It is almost as if we presume that we are always being lied to.

Not love enduring, but the endless celebration of unfettered choice and unrestrained accumulation grounds the so-called moral discourse of modem times.

Imagine this. What if there were a politician who could somehow speak of love? What if there were a President who would not only talk of a kinder and gentler nation but refuse to drop bombs upon a city like Baghdad? What if a people’s nobler hopes and dreams were addressed, their latent generosity and fairness, their willingness to share with the unfortunate?

What if there were a liberal politician who could spare as much love for human fetuses as he or she can muster for baby seals and trees? What if there were a conservative politician who realized that words of love apply to criminals and refugees as much as they do to unborn humans and middle-class Christians?

Such a politician would be a person whose professional life was informed by a faith and love that necessarily yields justice.

It would not be easy. Jesus himself, after he announced the good news to the poor, first amazed, then angered his audience. He was too ordinary and too close to give such prophetic utterance. It cannot be real. He cannot be real. Eventually they were filled with rage and wanted to cast him out. So it went when he began his ministry.

How goes it with Christians today?

John Kavanaugh, SJ

Father Kavanaugh was a professor of Philosophy at St. Louis University in St. Louis. He reached many people during his lifetime.


**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson