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; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Jesus said to his disciples, "To what will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep." For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, "He has a demon'; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, "Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!" Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children."
The key word today is family. We are "members of God's household." The family of the Church should not be monotonous or rigidly ruled, for its members are gifted in many ways. Paul mentions many of these talents: prophecy, full knowledge, comprehension of mysteries, confidence to move mountains, generosity in feeding the poor, willing to die heroically. But he knows that intense awareness of and pride in these talents can also cause problems in the church. He does not want any talent to be suppressed, but considers some of the gifted people "noisy gongs," "clanging cymbals." Such people, he suspects, can be rude, self-seeking or prone to anger, whereas all true gifts should be unifying, loving. There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.
Whether for Jesus or for Paul, the leaders of God's Church cannot be proud, egotistic individuals, but people who serve, with love. If there is strength in unity, these are the people who strengthen the church. Today's Gospel shows how readily Jesus himself was misinterpreted by those who looked merely at surface impressions and so judged him to be a glutton and a drunkard. It could serve as a warning against any hasty, inquisitorial procedures in our church, by those whose main focus of attention is to find fault with the views of others
The gospels suggest that Jesus had a wonderful relationship with children. He welcomed them when his own disciples were trying to keep them away from him. He pointed to them as the disciples" teachers because of their openness to God's presence. He identified with them completely, declaring that, in receiving such children, people are receiving him. Today's gospel suggests that Jesus was very observant when it came to children. He noticed their play in the market place. It reminded him of his own ministry and of the ministry of John the Baptist. The refusal of some children to join in the other children's games reminded him of the refusal of his contemporaries to take seriously either himself or John the Baptist. If the children's funeral games reminded Jesus of the ministry of John, their dancing games reminded him of his own ministry. Jesus identifies himself with the children who play the pipes and who invite other children to dance to their tune. It is interesting to think of Jesus as a piper who plays a tune for us to dance to. Jesus is the music of God. To follow him is to allow his music to enter deep into our hearts, souls and minds so that our whole lives move to its rhythm. The music played by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is not a dirge that evokes tears. It is joyous music because it proclaims the favour of God towards all who are open to receive it. It calls forth joyful dancing, the dance of the Spirit. As followers of the Lord, we carry a joyful song in our heart, even in dark times, because we appreciate how greatly we have been graced. Our calling is to allow something of the music of God that Jesus plays to move our lives and to touch the lives of all whom we meet.