Monday, June 29, 2015

The real struggle that the faithful encounter when society makes a choice that is morally unsettling.

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”. 


  1. Thanks for your timely sharing, Fr. Indeed, there are no clear-cut answers to this issue. Indeed, fear is probably at the heart of many (myself included) 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.. “Do not fear. Only have faith”.

  2. It is sad, but I suppose one could say it was just a matter of time – before the US Supreme court would legalise same-sex couplings (I hesitate to use the word marriage). But then the signs were all there.

    This ‘downward spiral’ had its beginnings way back in the nineteen-sixties. Pope Paul VI in his encyclical “Humanae Vitae” predicted with frightening accuracy the devastating effects of the widespread acceptance and use of contraception. What we are seeing today then, are the fruits of that fundamental shift in the (mainly developed nation’s) mindset concerning sexual matters. It was just a matter of time, I suppose, before things got to where they are now.

    Just this morning my daughter said that she was both disappointed and saddened that more than a few of her Catholic friends actually approve of all this. What she (my daughter) finds particularly scary is the ‘right’ of same-sex couples to adopt children! So where do we go from here?

    You are absolutely correct in stating that there are no clear-cut answers. Indeed, things are looking rather bleak right now. But then God can turn even the most seemingly hopeless situations into something life-giving and positive. Just like Jairus, we are instructed to, “..not be afraid, only have faith” in spite of everything that’s happening around us: and stay true to all that the Catholic church teaches.
    God bless you, Fr. Luke.

  3. When I believe God created the world, everything and all thing, anything that is beyond my ability to act / react, I offer it to Christ whom I trust will set all things right.

    When, I do not know, but I will offer it every day, remembering you saying before,. frLuke. that if you keep repeating/pestering, our Lord will hear. It is in His Hands and I move on, lighter :)


  4. “.................. 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.” – I do agree with that.

    Somehow, the word Love has been such a convenient scapegoat for many of society’s blunders or moral lapses throughout the ages. For example, in the Sixties, when some wantons loosely experimented with smoking marijuana and co-habiting it was hailed as liberating oneself to universal love of human kind. It is always easy to dress-up, to camouflage self-love and egotism and coat it sweet with seemingly righteous principles of social justice and freedom and make it fun with lots of symbolism like flowers and songs or rainbow flags?

    In fact, I was quite astonished or rather flabbergasted at how exceedingly thorough some Christian writers were (on-line), when they searched for Biblical verses and ingeniously contrived to explain away how God never really forbade same-sex marriages – because He loves all who are made in His image and likeness and Jesus’ great commandment is love. I doubt they could be serious for they have not really participated in any moral engagement of any sort and are just letting their personal opinion ride. Isn’t that an EGO thing? I like what one speaker said about EGO – its for - ‘Edging God Out’ and I feel that, this is what we are currently doing.

    God bless you, Fr