By now, it is no longer news that last week, the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex “marriages” are to be legalized in all 50 states of the United States of America. This decision was greeted with, as expected, a huge celebration with the many who had been wanting their right to marry the one they loved even though that person was of the same gender as themselves. All across the media, this has been hailed as a victory for love, and it was clearly seen that in the name of love, all hitherto barriers, natural or otherwise, are lifted and limits no longer apply.
Being a world leader on many levels, what happens in America usually will reach the shores of other countries in the world, and this ‘wave’ is most probably going to hit Singapore’s tiny shorelines in a matter of time.
In my discussion on this topic with friends and parishioners, and a quick gleaming on the postings on the social media, what comes across is a clear struggle that many are trying to express in the light of what is being unveiled.
What struggle? Predominantly, it is the internal moral struggle that one senses in people who are conscious about the need to be images of Christ in a world that seems to be filling rather quickly with people who have life-choices and lifestyles that have the tendency to disturb them at their very core. They do not have to be the people who have been through deep and complex moral theology courses in seminaries and universities, or even be people who have engaged with others in discussions on such matters. Quite frankly, they could well be the ‘salt of the earth’ people who have a certain sense about them which makes them feel at their marrow that something is amiss, and that there are rumblings at the magma level of humanity’s very being. They do not want to come across as people on any moral high horse either. Not because they want to continue to be popular with their same-sex pro-marriage friends or relations, but rather because of the need to live out the Christian call to love and to practice charity on all levels. Neither does it help that the phrase ‘thou shalt not judge’ is being brandished about without much reference to any context from where it is taken, making the word ‘judge’ such a divisive word that can easily result in an effluvia of vituperation and vitriolic.
Is love at the heart of this entire debacle? Without a doubt, it is. More evidently, it is what constitutes love and how love is defined that is at the core of the confounding snafu. Much as Christians can repeat, almost ad nauseam, that love in the purest sense and of the highest order is willing the good of the other as other, the philosophies of the current world have shouted a much louder definition of love, and unfortunately, one which is much broader than it is deep. It makes the case, and rather successfully at that, for the love of self and the promotion of the ego. When all pleasure senses and happiness ratings are going to be judged not by a higher standard, not by an unshakeable bastion, but by the fancies and preferences that satisfy the self, the end result will inevitably be what now lies before us. When one makes oneself the standard and the measure of not only happiness, but also success in life, subjectivity rules the day. It certainly doesn’t help that in almost all colleges in America at this time of the year, the Commencement speakers invited to give the graduating speech often centre their presentations on how imperative it is that each of the graduates from now on defines himself or herself, and should not allow societal norms to affect or influence one’s pathway to fulfillment of the self, and that they can do anything that they set their hearts on. It is as if the degree earned gives them a carte blanche in life.
In the light of this, it is a no-brainer that the language that those who are steadfast to the teachings of chastity, the call to self-denial and the invitation to live out long-suffering will seem to be ludicrous and dissonant, to put it gently.
It doesn’t help either that so many heterosexual marriages are hardly living images of people who are strong ambassadors of cross bearing in life. It makes the case for being pro-family as an answer to pro-gay marriage a rather weak one. Much as we strive to prepare couples in the faith to become living signs of Christ’s unconditional love for us, this noble ideal is often forgotten and left behind in the honeymoon suite.
Sometimes, with just the slightest test and trial in their marriages, couples find the easiest way out and bail out of that commitment to “love till death do us part”. Much as the Church preaches and teaches the values of chastity, long-suffering, charity and forgiveness, the unwillingness of these couples in sanctioned marriages to stay steadfast in the light of such daily challenges to love becomes a negative witness to what the Church wants to make of these couples – signs of Christ’s presence in the world, or to use Church language, sacraments of God to the world.
Clearly, those who are determined to stay steadfast to Magisterium teachings are going to experience being either sidelined or scorned. They will not have it easy when conversing with their peers or relations who believe that their cause has scored a huge win.
Do I have any semblance of a solution to this state of affairs? To be sure, there is neither panacea nor any magic bullet that will change things in the short run. If it took one or two generations for things to come to a head in the way they have, we can expect that for any dents to be made in the opposite direction, it will take just as long, if not longer.
As I was proclaiming the gospel text for Mass on Sunday, which was from Mark 5:21-43, what Jesus said seems to be especially applicable to us all. “Do not be afraid; just have faith” was his encouragement to Jairus.
Staying steadfast amidst the lashings of an incoming storm will naturally bring some fearful feelings. The Cross of Christ has stood so firm from that fearful day on Calvary when Christ died for not just his version of truth and love, but THE definition of truth and the most purified display of love. There probably are scores of same-sex oriented people who do want to stay chaste and faithful to Church teachings, but are also fearful that staying on this course of moral courage will bring its fair share of loneliness, bullying, abuse and other forms of suffering. It’s also probably a hidden truth that many who give in to the temptation of acting out their orientation are doing so because of a similar fear. Finally, fear is probably at the heart of many who have a tension of two loves in their lives – the love of their LGBT friends/relatives, and the love of God and being faithful to his teachings in the faith. All these are the various Jairuses to whom Jesus is saying “Do not fear. Only have faith”.
Faith is what keeps one afloat in the sea of contempt that one faces when one seems to be swept about by herd mentality. Faith is what kept Mary at the Cross of her son without demanding that answers be given clearly and distinctly. Faith is what holds troubled marriages together because they see a higher purpose of their faithfulness that is founded not just in each other, but also in God who holds them together.
This must be one of my most challenging reflections to write since I began the blog almost 293 blog entries ago. It does not give any clear-cut answers to the issue at hand, and is not meant to be a “dummies” answer at all. It merely gives fodder for thought, and it is meant to make the reader reflect and ruminate. Otherwise, the blog should be renamed as “answers and solutions”.