Ancient Answers

The bottom line according to Jesus – and Paul

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Sisters and brothers, you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. 

Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 

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 have not love, I am nothing. 

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. 

Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. 

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

Love never ends.

This is perhaps the most familiar passage in all of Paul’s writings. And yet it is not part of the regular cycle of Sunday readings. We read it today because July 1st is the feast of the unmercenary healers Sts. Cosmas & Damian – different from the saints of the same names celebrated on Nov. 1st.

Cosmas & Damian lived up to the teachings of Christ like few did in all history. Jesus told his disciples: Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give – δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε. They lived in the third century in Rome. They healed without payment, and they healed not only humans, but animals too. So their Kontakion praises them: Having received the grace of healing, you extend health to those in need, O glorious and wonderworking physicians. Hence, by your visitation, cast down the audacity of our enemies, and by your miracles, heal the world – τόν κόσμον ιώμενοι εν τοίς θαύμασι. 

Healing is at the heart of love. Love is healing – healing for the world! So Paul is able to wrap up all the wonderful things that Christians are capable of with that one single word, agape. If we read further in that chapter from which we read this morning (1 Corinthians 13), we come to Paul’s climactic statement: And now faith, hope, and love remain, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

The tragedy of human history is that not only is healing love rarely happens, but it is also rarely received. Isn’t that the message of today’s Gospel reading? Jesus heals the two demoniacs. But in the process he messes up the economic system of the town. So the inhabitants ask him to leave; they don’t want him to mess around with their economy any further.

Whether you want to admit it or not, Jesus was a troublemaker. He messed things up. He had no attachment to the economic and political rules of the human game. And wherever we attempt to fit our conceptions of love into the rules of the game, we end up betraying love. Love cannot be defined by economics, by budgets, by political or religious ideologies.

So we have today two saints who represent the full gospel message of Jesus Christ – not with words and hypocritical platitudes, but with acts of love and healing. We celebrate their memory by reading the portion in Paul’s letters that most clearly elevates love above all other characteristics of Christian life. And we read a Gospel passage that shows the healing love of Christ coming into conflict with money and economics. And the people who see it choose to drive out Jesus. He drove out evil from their midst and they, with ungrateful hearts, drive him out from their midst. How long do you think before demons come back to that town? Nothing attracts evil more than ingratitude. And nothing heals and sanctifies like love. Never place any obstacles to love. Never look for the bottom line when it comes to love – because love is the bottom line with Jesus. Always!

2 thoughts on “The bottom line according to Jesus – and Paul

  1. Love came
    For healing

    Of a blind
    World

    Touching
    Our eyes

    Warming
    Our hearts

    Love came
    The healer

    Of the
    World.

    Thank you for sharing your words,
    Michael.

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