As we return to lodge in the coming days, hopefully we can also return to thinking of and treating our brethren and our fellow human beings better than our social media posts and the news suggests that we have during these past few months.
In the Grand Lodge of Illinois the second degree scripture reading is from 1 Corinthians 13 verses 1-7 and 13. Let us consider these verses and how we might reflect on and apply them to return to or strengthen that Brotherly Love that we Masons profess to believe. I think if we insert ourselves into these verses and make them about each of us, it can serve as a look in the mirror that spurs a call to action.
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
The first thing that comes to my mind in reading this is the use of the word charity. In other translations the word love is used. In any case, the many scholars believe that the word takes the meaning of the Greek agape or that love which is unchanging and unconditional—that love which selflessly puts the needs of others ahead of self without expectation of reward. In order to understand this better, let’s look at the English standard Version of the same verses.
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
The first three verses tell us that whatever spiritual gifts we may come to possess or sacrifices we may make, are useless without love. Verses four through seven tell us how love should be. The final verse charges us to remain or dwell in Faith, Hope, and Love—but the greatest is Love.
Few places in the Masonic ritual is there a better description of how we should see and treat and love each other. But do we?
Here is the exercise that I think will provide that look in the mirror—that deep reflection we take of ourselves, our motives, and our actions—that hopefully drives us to action. In verses four through seven, turn each statement describing Love and make it a question about yourself.
Am I patient and kind?
Do I envy or boast?
Am I arrogant or rude?
Do I insist on my own way?
Am I irritable or resentful?
Do I rejoice at wrong doing or at the truth?
Do I bear all things, do I believe all things, do I hope all things, do I endure all things?
Do I remain or dwell in Faith, Hope, and especially Love?
What are your answers to these questions? Are you happy with those answers? What action are you going to take?
Where are you going to dwell?
Brian L. Pettice, 33° is a Past Master of Anchor Lodge No. 980 and plural member of Olive Branch Lodge No. 38 in Danville, IL and an Honorary Member of a couple of others. He is also an active member of both the York and Scottish Rites. He cherishes the Brothers that have become Friends over the years and is thankful for the opportunities Freemasonry gives and has given him to examine and improve himself, to meet people he might not otherwise have had chance to meet, and to do things he might not otherwise have had a chance to do. He is employed as an electrician at the University of Illinois and lives near Alvin, IL with his wife Janet and their son Aidan. He looks forward to sharing the joy the fraternity brings him with others. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.