So I'm going to give you a lesson on Catholic Weddings 101. For everyone who has ever sat through a Catholic wedding mass, you have all probably heard the same reading. That's because when people get married in the Catholic Church, they are given roughly three suggestions as to what a good wedding reading will be.
There is, however, an exception to this guideline. On what is called a Holy Day of Obligation, you have to feature the readings that are meant for that day. When Steph and I were getting married, our original date was going to be November 1, which is a Holy Day called "All Saints Day." That day's reading came from Revelation.
Imagine on your wedding day hearing something along the lines of, "And the Lord God did smote the damned and blew the enemies and the demons into tiny bits, using a fiery serpent to carry the flesh and bones into the pit... in His mercy."
We settled on October 25 to wed... but I digress.
So Steph and I were sitting at mass yesterday morning, and the lector reads the words, "Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. " I immediately turned to Steph and said, "This is the wedding reading."
The gifts that St. Paul is talking about in his first letter to the Corinthians, Verses 12 and 13, are faith, hope, and love. The reading goes into how important love is, and how nothing means anything without it. Or as John, Paul, George (all Saint's names) and Ringo (not a saint's name) prophesized, "All you need is love. Doo... di doo doo doooooo."
(Evidently, the Corinthians didn't get the first message, because Paul had to write them another letter. Not very quick on the uptake, those Corinthians. But again, I digress.)
The beginning part of the reading is nice enough if not overtly memorable to the lay person. However, the really famous part is a show-stopper:
"Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not Jealous, it is not pompous,
It is not inflated, it is not rude,
It does not seek its own interests,
It is not quick-tempered,
It does not brood over injury,
It does not rejoice over wrongdoing
But rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
Hopes all things, endures all things."
But something happened to me yesterday when I heard the last line:
"Love never fails."
Close your eyes for a moment and just say that as many times as it takes to sink in.
Love. Never. Fails.
It immediately brought my mind to all of the people I know who are right now battling cancer. There's the little girl who is facing not only a relapse, but a new type of cancer on top of that. There's the uncle of a friend who found out two days ago that he has an aggressive melanoma that may take his life by Valentine's Day. There's my grade school friend who has radiation and three reconstruction surgeries in the next few months.
This is not even counting my friend's BFF, and my own childhood friend, who both succumbed in the last three weeks.
We are all human and we all fail. Our minds can fail. Our bodies can fail. Our intentions can fail. Our faith can fail. Our hope can fail.
But our love never fails. Love is the one thing that keeps us going when everything crashes down around us. Love is the substance that keeps faith and hope alive. Love is why you help your children to keep fighting. Love is what brings people together to say goodbye. Love is our caring, and our compassion, and our intense joy, and our utter pain. Love is how we feel and why we feel it.
So on the days when you feel like life truly sucks, when nothing around you makes sense, when faith and hope start to wane...or even when they extinguish, take a breath, close your eyes, and whisper the words that truly do conquer all:
Love never fails.
Love. Never. Fails.
Here endeth the lesson. Doo... di doo doo dooooo.