Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia — on the joy of love in the family — includes a beautiful, in depth exegesis of a passage from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.
The “hymn to love,” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 — often read during weddings — serves to illuminate love in marriage. The pope describes human love in concrete terms and offers psychological insights at the beginning of the exhortations fourth chapter (§§ 89-119).
“Love is patient,” the hymn begins. Pope Francis explains, by analyzing the Greek, that this phrase refers to “the quality of one who does not act on impulse and avoids giving offense.”
“Being patient does not mean letting ourselves be constantly mistreated, tolerating physical aggression or allowing other people to use us,” he writes. “We encounter problems whenever we think that relationships or people ought to be perfect, or when we put ourselves at the center and expect things to turn our way.”
The pope unpacks the meaning of each phrase in detail. He explains that St. Paul’s phrase “Love bears all things” “is about more than simply putting up with evil; it has to do with the use of the tongue.”
“Being willing to speak ill of another person is a way of asserting ourselves, venting resentment and envy without concern for the harm we may do,” the pope writes. “We often forget that slander can be quite sinful; it is a grave offense against God when it seriously harms another person’s good name and causes damage that is hard to repair.”
“Love believes all things,” St. Paul writes.
“This trust enables a relationship to be free,” the pope explains. “It means we do not have to control the other person, to follow their every step lest they escape our grip. Love trusts, it sets free, it does not try to control, possess and dominate everything.”
Throughout the exhortation, the pope references scripture and previous Church teaching. There is a great depth to the document and the pope does not recommend “a rushed reading.”