Summary: On Quinquagesima, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 teaches us about FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE, and why LOVE is the greatest of these. Luke 18:31-43 teaches us about SALVATION and RESTORATION of SIGHT. How are these truths connected? How do we apply them in our lives?
In the Epistle (1 Corinthians 13:1-13) selected for Quinquagesima Sunday, or as I call it, Sight Sunday, S. Paul gives us a teaching on FAITH, HOPE, and CHARITY (or, as some translate it, LOVE, meaning Christ-like love) – not only on what they mean, but also on how they relate to each other. And another key to understanding how these three are related comes, perhaps unexpectedly, from the Gospel reading (Luke 18:31-43) chosen for Quinquagesima Sunday, wherein we learn that Jesus gave his Disciples a GLIMPSE of his upcoming Passion, but, at the time, they could not SEE how it fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. Jesus then passed by a blind man who begged for mercy and asked to receive his SIGHT. He received his SIGHT. Our Lord could have said, thy faith hath healed thee. Instead, he said, thy faith hath saved thee. Thus, a mystery revealed: FAITH by the Spirit allows us to accept the Lord’s gift of salvation, and gives surety to the HOPE that is within us. And HOPE takes us to the beginning of not only our understanding of LOVE, but also, through love, the restoration of our SIGHT. S. Paul states in the Epistle reading, “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known.” This is our hope through faith with love, and it is why I call this day Sight Sunday. Thus, by faith, salvation and the surety of hope; and by hope's surety, love, the perfection of which we see in Christ’s Passion; and by love, our sight, fully restored. So, if faith and hope point to charity, then what is charity? Why is it the greatest of the three? And what does it have to do with sight?
SO WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?
Before describing love, or "charity," directly, S. Paul spends the first three verses of 1 Corinthians 13 teaching a great deal about the impact and importance of love by describing the shattering consequences of its absence (a method of story-telling with a lesson that we see used, for example, in the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," where the consequences of George Bailey having never been born are so dramatically portrayed).
S. Paul begins this lesson-giving with, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." It is easy to gloss over this verse and miss the enormity of what S. Paul is saying. To be fluent in all languages? How cool would that be? Think of how you could help out as a translator in difficult situations; what misunderstandings you could help prevent or remedy. How impressive would it be to all those visiting from other nations, or to those in other nations where you might travel, for you to be able to understand them perfectly and be understood. Perhaps you might even become a key participant in world diplomacy and negotiations. You could also become very powerful and rich. And who knows where being able to speak with angels might lead. YET, S. Paul says that in the Kingdom of God, in God's eyes, without love, you would only be a loud noise without meaning. Even more, as history unfolds and passes from the future, through the present, and into its dustbin of the past, without love, you would not be remembered as having said anything of meaning or consequence - you would just be a momentary interlude of annoying noise. Without love.
In verse 2, S. Paul writes, "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." Wow. With these gifts, you would win every debate. You would be able to explain all mysteries to students and world leaders. You would be able explain and guide every new advance in technology and in all the affairs of men; cure and prevent cancer and other diseases. And imagine how impressive it would be to help the construction of roads and cities by using your faith to move mountains out of the way. You would be unstoppable, and could become very rich and powerful. YET, S. Paul says that, without love, you would be nothing. Non-existent in the Kingdom of God, in the eyes of God, and nothing in the memory and consequence of your displays of power and wonder. All would come to naught and corruption, since power corrupts. The fingerprint of your life would fade and disappear beneath the ruination that would follow all such hollow works. In the great harvest, the redemption of humanity by our King and Lord, Jesus Christ, for eternal joy in the new heaven and new earth that John beautifully describes in his Revelation, you would be invisible, unseen, and overlooked. Without love.