Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Of Fashion Shows & Faithful Families

Day 7 of Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea Novena

In Preparation for Parish Feast
Theme: Faith & Family

Readings: Si 3:2-6; 12-14; Col 3:12-21; Mk 10:2-16
Picture: cc Sebastian Dooris

Sisters and brothers, have you ever been to a fashion show? I think we all know what a fashion show is, right? Even though I haven’t been to a fashion show, I have watched parts of it on TV. So I know what it looks like. I know what it’s for. I know, for example, that in a fashion show models put on different kinds of clothes–usually very expensive clothes–and walk around for people to see. And I also know why they do this. The reason is not really for us to admire the models themselves. Although we may have heard of people who go to fashion shows just to stare at the models–and maybe to get their phone numbers–we also know that this is not the right reason to go. In a fashion show, the focus is supposed to be on the clothes. The show is for the fashion. Not the models. And, if we remember that, then we will also remember who is the most important person at the show.

I know this will sound strange, sisters and brothers, but just imagine for a moment that you are at a fashion show right now. And you are actually interested in the clothes. Not just the models. Imagine also that you really like what you see. You really want to own and to wear some of the clothes on display. But there’s just one problem. They are too expensive. What can you do? Well, one thing you could do would be to try to memorise the pattern of the clothes. And then try to make them for yourself. On your own. Or maybe you could get a tailor to do it for you. But, of course, to do all this successfully, you really need to have some skill. Skill at remembering, at drawing, at sewing... But what if you don’t have all these skills? Does it mean you won’t be able to wear these clothes? Is there something else you can do?

Actually there is, right? Although it’s usually not easy, one other thing you can do is to try to make friends with the most important person at the show. Not the models walking around onstage. But the person hiding backstage. Not the people wearing the clothes. But the person who created all the designs. The fashion designer himself or herself. Imagine if you were close friends with the designer. Then s/he could give you the designs. Maybe even make the clothes for you to wear.

But I’m sure, sisters and brothers, that by now at least some of you are beginning to wonder: what has all this to do with our Mass? What possible connection is there with the theme for this 7th day of our Novena in preparation for the parish feast? What has fashion got to do with Faith and Family? I think the connection may become a little clearer for us when we consider more carefully what we heard just now during the second reading. You will remember, sisters and brothers, that this reading, from the letter to the Colossians, is all about a special kind of clothing that Christians are supposed to wear. The clothing that consists in how we treat one another. You should be clothed, we were told, in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience… forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins… Over all these clothes… put on love… And not only that. Not only does the reading talk about clothes that everyone, every Christian, is supposed to wear. It also shows us certain clothes that are meant to be worn by specific people: Wives, give way to your husbands… Husbands, love your wives… Children, be obedient to your parents always…

And it’s not just in the second reading that we find these descriptions of special clothing, or of proper behaviour towards others. The first reading also talks more specifically about how children should treat their parents. Here, we’re told to respect and to honour our fathers. To set our mothers at ease. To support our fathers in their old age. To show them sympathy. To be kind to them. And then, in the gospel, Jesus talks about how husbands and wives should treat each other. How they should see themselves as no longer two, but one body, which God has put together. So that what God has united, man must not divide. Which is to say that husbands and wives should remain faithful to each other.

Sisters and brothers, what we find in our readings today are some of the most important behaviours for the building up of happy families. And not just families bound by blood. But also other kinds of families. Such as the larger family of the Church. Bound by faith in Jesus Christ. Our readings encourage us to put on behaviours like love, compassion, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, obedience, respect, kindness, honour, fidelity... So many behaviours. So many different pieces of clothing to put on. So many things to wear. What do you think, sisters and brothers? What does this look like, if not a fashion show?

And not just any kind of fashion, right? But fashion that is actually very difficult to make. Clothes that are very expensive to buy. How many of us find it easy, for example, to be gentle and patient with our family members? Isn’t it true, that it often seems much easier to be kind and  considerate to friends and colleagues, or even to complete strangers, than to the members of our own family? And how many of us find it easy to forgive someone who has hurt us? Difficult enough to forgive after a very long time has passed. But to forgive as soon as a quarrel begins? How hard that must be. And how many of us who are married, find it actually easy to stay married? Or how many of us enjoy caring for aged parents? Especially parents who may be suffering from dementia? Truly, sisters and brothers, if we are honest with ourselves, don’t we have to admit that the clothes we need to wear in order to have happy faith-filled families, are really very expensive to buy. Really very hard to sew. Really very difficult to make.

But here’s the good news, sisters and brothers. We don’t have to make or to buy these clothes for ourselves. In fact, we cannot. The good news is that the One who designed them actually wants to make them for us. In our Lord Jesus Christ, God the heavenly Fashion Designer has already come among us to be our friend. All we have to do is to accept His hand of friendship. To receive his words of mercy. To participate in his banquet of love. And isn’t this what we are doing here at this Mass. And also at every moment that we spend in prayer. Whether on our own or together with others. What we are doing is to allow our friendship with Jesus to deepen. So that He can slowly transform us. Gradually change our behaviour. Gently put on for us, piece by piece, all the proper clothes we need to wear in order to build happy, peaceful, and faith-filled families. In the words of the responsorial psalm, O blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways! You will be happy and prosper.

Isn’t this, sisters and brothers, the true connection between faith and family. We can only build happy families by allowing our friendship with Christ to deepen. And isn’t this also why, in the gospel, Jesus calls the Pharisees unteachable? In another translation of the Bible, Jesus speaks of their hardness of heart. The Pharisees stubbornly refuse to acknowledge their own weakness. They refuse to receive God’s friendship in Jesus. They insist on relying on their own efforts. On clothing themselves. And so, in their pride and self-righteousness, they fall short. In contrast, Jesus invites us to have the openness of little children. Who are not shy to admit their need for others. They are ever willing to depend on others, because they know they cannot survive on their own. Anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

My dear sisters and brothers, to help us build up our families, Christ Jesus our Fashion Designer is eager to keep clothing us in His mercy. To keep embracing us in His love. What must we do to continue accepting His hand of friendship today?

1 comment:

  1. Change my heart O God and make me more like You.

    Sih Ying
    11 September 2013


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