Did you know that as many faculties decrease with age, wisdom is thought to continue to grow? It increases throughout your life, and I would argue that growth in wisdom can only be achieved through love. Last week the church celebrated the presentation of Christ at the Temple, and in the gospel story from Luke 2, we meet Simeon and Anna. Simeon tells us that Jesus will be the light to lighten the nations. And so, the church traditionally blessed the candles that are to be used for the year, and it became known as Candlemas.
In all that Simeon says about who Jesus is, one thing sticks out for me: the words to Mary: “and a sword will pierce your soul.” Imagine those words being spoken to you as you go in joy to present your five week old baby in the Temple. We don’t have a Gospel of Mary, so we don’t know, but if I was Mary, I would have taken in that my child would be the light to lighten the nations, that my child would save the people of Israel, but I would have left with one thought: tell me more about this sword that is going to pierce my soul (But I am much more self-involved than Mary).
Yet, fear for ourselves, the world our children is entirely natural. We are wired to look out for danger and threat. That’s why when we have an appraisal at work we ignore the hundred positive things that were said and hang on the one negative. It is in our make up to be aware of threat, and so we hang on to negative thoughts. I believe that in neuro-science if you ask someone to have a positive thought and record how long that lasts, it is only a few seconds. However, negative thoughts hang on like Velcro. We have to make a concerted effort to focus on the positive. That is why I think 1 Corinthians 13 is so important for our understanding of how to be a good human and a good Christian. There are faith hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.
The white board in chaplaincy house, where the last verse of 1 Corinthians 13 appeared in many languages.
We know that God is the very source of love, and Richard Rohr says, all love flows into us as open-heartedness. That’s why 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that we are nothing but noise and cleverness without love. When we are in that flow of God’s love, then we know it, because our energy can flow out of us, and others can see it. When we are not in that space, then energy is sucked inwards. When we find ourselves not liking “those people”, or focussing on how we have been wronged, then we are hoarding love, rather than letting it flow through us.
Spirituality and growth in wisdom is about keeping that heart-space open. It is daily work, because our natural inclination is to judge, dismiss and fear. We do not become Simeon and Anna, filled with love and wonder of the Christ-child, but we become the grumpy old person (or young person) that we never wanted to be. It is easy to end up filled with fear and negativity, and it is hard work to live in love and patience and kindness.
So, as it is nearly St Valentine’s Day I leave you with an alternative pondering on love by Jean Varnier, love is not just a feeling, but “to love someone is to show them their beauty, their worth and their importance.”
Laura Rhodes – Chaplain