Monday, January 25, 2010

We are as strong as our weakest link

At yesterday's Mass, we heard proclaimed St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (12:12-30). What stood out from that was the part which mentioned that the ‘parts of the body that seem to be the weakest are the indispensable ones, and it is the least honourable parts of the body that we clothe with the greatest care’.

Of course, St Paul was using the analogy of the body of Christ (the community) to highlight the fact that we are all members of that body. But it was something that stayed with me principally because of two things I encountered.

I chanced upon a nearby eatery called 18 Chefs. I was not too enticed by the menu that was displayed at the window, but what made me want to give it a try was the worker who stood outside and made the effort to explain the concept of the eatery. This place is run by a reformed convict who made a turn around in life, and has as its motto, the desire to give every former convict a chance to find work in a non-judgemental working environment. They believe in giving second chances to people with a record to their name, helping them to recover through a bond of friendship so that they can eventually allow them to be of service to the community.

The young lady who showed me to my table was very amiable, and spoke briefly of her own record, and I was won over by the fact that this place gave people like her such courage and hope. As I glanced at the kitchen, I saw many young people, some with colourful tattoos and piercings, working at their craft of bringing the best food possible to the table of the customers. Apparently, each one of them are the recipients of a second chance in life. Kudos to the owner of this chain, which apparently has three other outlets in Singapore right now after having opened in 2007.

Incidentally, I happened to watch a movie which also spoke of a second chance. The Blind Side is currently in the cinemas, and I was recommended it by two brother priests. Clearly, it carried this similar theme of the second chance in life in another dimension, and I could not help but see that God is speaking to me of how mercy is at the heart of life.

Don’t most of us find it so hard to extend second chances to people who have either failed us before, or done us some wrong? Perhaps, it is easier to extend this kind of compassion and kindness to family members or friends. But in each of the examples that I encountered, what moved me was that these second chances are given to strangers – people who had no ties to those who extended that compassion and mercy to. Most of us want some form of guarantee that those to whom we extend chances and mercy to will not fail us, and will not play us out in life. In other words, we want a sure thing in life. But is that really compassion? Those of us who have been moved by the story of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables will know that it was the mercy and compassion of the Bishop that changed and shaped him.

Many of us are influenced by the perfect, the strongest, the best and the smartest. While I certainly do not advocate that we should be slackers in life, if we are only interested in what is ‘best’, we may be dumbing down our capacity for true human living if we do not develop a patience and compassion for the slower ones who need a bit more from us.

This is why the Jewish laws and Jesus’ teachings always emphasized extending care to the widows and orphans. These were the weakest links in their society, and how these were treated, how these were given care and support were indications of how truly human the strongest and the most successful were. The presence of an establishment like 18 Chefs, incredibly strong people like Leigh Ann Tuohy (the character portrayed by Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side), become stark reminders that we as a society are only as strong as our weakest link and if we are giving such links the chances that they need.

We only need one person to do things differently, with a certain bravado and gumption to wake us to the fact that we too can make a difference in the lives of others. And it is only when our weakest link is strengthened, that the entire body of Christ benefits.


  1. Thank you for your heartwarming words Fr. Luke. I am so blessed to be able to read your ruminations every week. I usually read your latest blog post Sunday evening (since we're behind 18 hours) after Vespers, and they inspire me each in their own way.

  2. Your line " mercy is at the heart of life" evokes (Shakespeare)Portia's memorable lines on the unique quality of mercy (quote) " droppeth like a gentle rain from heaven, upon the place beneath; it is twice blest; it blesseth him that gives and him that receives.." - mercy is thus the gentle rain (grace ) of God that falls ever so softly upon us - as recipients, we are blessed for ( like you said) we are given another 'go'at LIFE or a chance of a new dawn; and as givers we are blessed with the chance to come close to being "divine" for mercy is an 'attribute of God himself' - is that why we feel much joy & peace whenever we respond to a need ?

  3. Indeed, it is when we share in the divine life of God on that level of mercy, that we experience the kind of peace and joy that comes from the being of God. This applies, I believe to every human being, regardless of whether one is a Catholic or not. And it finds its genesis (literally) in the book of Genesis, where we are told that we are made in the image and likeness of God. What sets those who are baptised apart from others is that we know of this dignity, whilst for others, it is something that is implicit.

    Fr Luke

  4. Hi, I came to your blog from reading today's papers and am glad to know another "pastor" who blogs. I have linked you in my blog.

  5. I enjoyed this very much Fr. luke.

    The week was very draining for me. Took a toll on me emotionally. This lifted my spirits ,reminded me to always love with all my heart and remain compassionate always.

    To love immensely and be loved immensely.