Love (Not Optional) Binds the Body

fish fry

Don’t worry. If you attend Mass and listen carefully to the readings, you might fear that you stumbled into somebody’s wedding. But remain calm. It’s a normal Sunday Mass. Just so happens that we read I Corinthians 13 once every three years in the Lectionary.

And it’s a good thing, too. Because we need to try to understand St. Paul’s world-famous “Hymn to Love” as best we can.

Who remembers the subject matter of chapter twelve of First Corinthians? The unity of the Church can be compared to the unity of…

Right! The parts of the human body.

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Portrait of Unity

fray hortensio portrait el greco

At Sunday Mass, we find ourselves in the middle of a three week tour of St. Paul’s treatise on love and unity. Next Sunday, Mass will be like a wedding. The second reading will be I Corinthians, chapter thirteen.

This Sunday, we hear the second part of the twelfth chapter, which contains one of the most entertaining passages in the entire Bible: Body parts begin talking to each other, like members of a self-pity support group.

The goofy-looking foot miserably laments, “I am not a hand, so I really don’t feel included!” The hand just sits there quietly, looking graceful and debonair.

Then the ugly, lumpy ear jumps in: “Look at me! I am not luminous and iridescent like the eye over here. So I just get shut off to the side and used as a kind of doorstop for people’s glasses!”

earLet’s focus on this: In writing this section of his letter, St. Paul focused his imagination on the human body with the meticulous eye of a portrait painter.

The portrait painter wants to capture the details of all the various parts of a person’s human form, in order thereby to present the unique and distinctive whole: the personality of this particular human being.

If you don’t mind, let’s take an example. My favorite portrait painter is El Greco (as you can tell, because he is in the Hall of Fame to the right). He painted a portrait of a friend of his, a priest and Trinitarian friar, whom the king of Spain had appointed preacher to the royal court.

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