It's a beautiful Greek term meaning love for one's fellow man. It is something, that as a mother, I want my children to learn.
In the readings for today is the very familiar verse from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians in which he extols the virtue of love. It is so familiar that I have seen eyes glaze over as it is read at weddings and people gently sway to the rhythm of it. That's part of the reason I chose NOT to have it read at my wedding.
When I was in college in a class on literature, this was one of the selected readings. Of course, many in the class brought up how beautiful it was to hear at weddings and how it was a perfect rendering of romantic love. Then the professor brought an alternate reading. What if Paul was preaching to the Corinthians agape? A few lightbulbs went off.
Am I patient or kind because I love this person? Or do I show my love for my fellow man when I am patient and kind? I'm sure the answer is both/and.
Do we really think of that though when we hear St. Paul's Epistle read? For many of us the answer is no. Maybe it's just that it's an ingrained part of those Catholic and Protestant weddings. Or just that we never think more deeply about the reading.
Today, I practice St. Paul's teaching. I practice agape.