Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
We are all united in that we all have the ability to give and receive love. We are also all united in the fact that we all sin. Sin, put very simply, is the failure to love. We cannot love and sin at the same time. In the moment we are sinning, we are not loving. And in the moment we are loving, we are not sinning.
The commandments of God all point to love. Most of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments—No other gods before you, no graven images, do not take the Lord’s name in vain, remember the Sabbath, honor father and mother, do not commit murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not covet. Christ summarizes these ten into two commandments—Love God and love our neighbor. Each of the ten can be classified under these two. These two can be summarized into one word: LOVE. God created us out of love. God redeemed us out of love. John 3:16 says “For God so LOVED the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” It wasn’t because God felt sorry for the world, or because God owed the world, but because God loved the world.
Read I Corinthians 13: 4-8, replacing the word “love” with “God.” It reads like this:
(God) is patient and kind; (God) is not jealous or boastful; (God) is not arrogant or rude. (God) does not insist on His own way; (God) is not irritable or resentful; (God) does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right. (God) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (God) never ends.
God is love. Love is God.
When we are loving, we are in step with God. When we sin, we fail to love, and we are not in step with God.
Something else that unites all people is that we all sin. We may have a diversity of sins, that matches our diversity of gifts and circumstances. But we all sin. We all fail to love God and neighbor as we should. This is why we need healing in our souls, as well as our bodies because every soul is darkened because of sin.
There are several ways to heal our souls. The first and most common way is through a decision to repent. This decision to choose to love is something we are confronted with every day, whether it’s a day on which we go to church to worship or not. We make a choice to love each time we talk to someone. We make a choice to love when we choose to work instead of being distracted with social media. We make a choice to love each time we get behind the wheel of a car. Many times we are failing in our choices. However, the opportunity to make the choice to love is one we can make at any time.
Holy Unction is a corporate prayer and a sacrament of healing for our souls. In this sacrament, as we are discussing, we come together to offer prayers of forgiveness for the Body of Christ, of which we are all members. We pray collectively to love better. We pray corporately for God to have mercy on us for the times we failed to love.
The sacrament of confession provides healing for our souls as well. Confession helps to rid us of the guilt we carry over our past failings. The point of confession is not just rattling off a laundry list of sins. There is the owning up to our sins by specifically saying them. The sacrament includes repentance, which means discussing a plan with the priest who has heard the confession for how to work on not repeating the sins that have been confessed. The sacrament concludes with the Prayer of Absolution, offered by the priest over the person who has confessed, asking God to loosen all the sins that were confessed and telling the penitent to depart in peace, having no further anxiety or guilt over them.
At some point in life, most of us will hear the words “there is nothing more we can do, there is no way to be healed from this disease” from a doctor. We may hear that in relation to our parents, our spouses, we may one day even hear it in relation to ourselves. The truth is that at some point in every life, it will not be possible to heal a broken body, whether that is heart disease, or cancer, or some other malady that will eventually end every human life. At some point, every human body will fail.
However, there will never be a point during our life where spiritual healing will not be possible. There is always the possibility for personal repentance, for Holy Unction, for confession, and for God’s mercies. Because God is love, and God never ends. We fail to love in some way each day. And when we choose to love, we are repenting. When we repent, God is merciful. The goal is to repent more than we sin and to repent each time we sin. The goal is to love more and love better because in doing so, we will sin less and be in step with God more.
Read I Corinthians 13:4-7, replacing the word “love” with your name:
(Your name) is patient and kind; (Your name) is not jealous or boastful; (Your name) is not arrogant or rude. (Your name) does not insist on my own way; (Your name) is not irritable or resentful; (Your name) does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right. (Your name) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
If we can be these things, then we can become what God intends for love to be and what God intends for us to be. And the ultimate thing God intends for us to be is what we read in I Corinthians 13:8: Love never ends. God never ends. And if we learn to love as God loves, we will never end either. We will be forever with God in His Kingdom.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us; for we sinners, devoid of all defense, offer to You, as Master, this supplication; have mercy on us. (Troparion)
Love and sin cannot co-exist. When we love, we honor God. When we love as God loves us, we move closer to God and to salvation, the place where love, God, and us will never end.