The New Testament passage for last night's mass was 1 Corinthians 13, the "love chapter." Alan noted that very often, preachers have taken the opportunity for a certain kind of moralizing - a nice ecclesial guilt trip along the lines of "I must always be" these things, or I am something less than a good and faithful disciple. Rather, it is a description of ...love! As such, it is also an indication of the character of God.
It reminded me of something else the Abbot told me once: when the NT entreats us to be loving and forgiving and patient and kind, it is not indicating that we can or that we should snap our fingers and somehow just "be" those things in some kind of abstract way. These things, after all, mean very little in the abstract. We must hear the call to engage in the concrete practices that will form us as loving, patient, kind and forgiving people. "Be forgiving" does not mean "will yourself to think nice thoughts," but rather, "take this opportunity to do forgiveness now."
In a personal level, the question becomes, what can I do today that contributes to a life of compassion? Of forgiveness? Of chastity?
On the broader, "big picture" communal level, we ask what it means to live this way as the Church in the context of the culture. I will continue to insist that the only legitimate orientation for the Church in the world is a Eucharistic one: we are the Body of Christ, broken, and the Blood of Christ, poured out so that others might have life. When Christians insist to the broader world that their "rights" (and even social privileges) be respected, we reveal our desire to be the masters of other people, rather than to be broken for their sake, after the calling of Jesus the Christ. Jesus refused to treat enemies like enemies, and did not refuse to be broken at their hands, for their own salvation and healing. We who were enemies of God have been healed and reconciled by the suffering love of God. When we refuse the suffering of love - and the suffering of rejection that is part and parcel with it - we set ourselves up against the divine economy of healing and salvation.
The culture wars are bad, mmkay?
Back to the first question; it's time to go say Morning Prayer.