Monday, November 11, 2013

Some Things Have to Be Custom-Made

Wedding Mass of Rachel & Andrew

Readings: Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 148; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8; Matthew 5:1-12
Pictures: cc Stefan Z

Andrew and Rachel, my dear friends. Have you ever noticed how so many of the things we use these days are mass-produced? Even something as complex and as sophisticated as a smartphone? I imagine that the parts that make up a smartphone are manufactured and assembled in factories that churn out many thousands of units a day. And it’s a good thing that we’re able to do this, because it makes the products more easily available. Also more affordable.

But, even though we may have the technology to mass-produce a lot of useful stuff. A factory-manufactured product is not always the most suitable. Some things still need to be custom-made. Especially if we want them to fit well. I know someone, for example, who recently needed a new set of dentures. The process of making them was really quite laborious. Not to mention expensive. It involved several visits to the dentist. First, to have a couple of teeth extracted. Then measurements had to be taken. Moulds and adjustments made. And, even after the dentures were finished, it took some time for the wearer to get used to them. At first there was some pain and discomfort. But, thankfully, the last time I checked, the person is finally happy with the final product. The dentures fit comfortably now. But only after a rather long and costly process. Only because they have been custom-made.

Today, many things can be mass-produced. Very quickly. And very cheaply. But some other things continue to have to be custom-made. If this is true of dentures, it’s even more true of marriages. Isn’t this the message that you, Andrew and Rachel, are trying to bring to our attention, through the scripture readings that you have chosen for our celebration today?

In the familiar first reading from the book of Genesis, we have an account of something being made. At first glance it may seem like the reading provides us with a description of how the first woman is created. And that’s true. It does. But that’s not all it does. For notice how the reading ends. It ends not just with a woman. Standing alone as a finished product. The reading ends rather with a relationship. We’re told that the man and the woman become one body. Quite clearly, the first reading is a description of how a relationship is created. And not just any kind of relationship. Not just a relationship where one creature exerts mastery over another. But a relationship of true equals. Of mutual respect. Of deep intimacy. Of oneness of heart and mind and body. This at last is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!
And notice how this unique relationship comes about. Notice how the man rejects all other animals. The same animals that God had earlier mass-produced, so to speak. These are found to be unsuitable. What the man is seeking requires something more than mass-production. The relationship that he desires requires more time and effort. It must be custom-made. And notice what this customised process involves. First the man is made to fall into a deep sleep. And then something is taken from him. Something that is actually a part of his very self. A rib is taken from the man. And made a part of the woman.

Now, my dear friends, I may be wrong. But I think that for us modern Christians, this process may at first look like nothing more than a surgical procedure. Like something we may find, for example, in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. And, what’s more, we may even think that it’s a procedure that’s rather unethical. The man is drugged, and then his rib is stolen from him. But perhaps there is really something more going on. To appreciate what this is, we need to turn our attention to the second reading. Again, very insightfully chosen by you, Andrew and Rachel. Here, we find St. Paul reminding us of the crucial importance of love. If I give away all that I possess, Paul writes, if I even let them take my body to burn it (or my rib), but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

Paul’s words should help us to see more clearly, what is happening to the man in the first reading. First, his ego is put to sleep. His tendency to seek only what’s good for himself. First, his self-interest has to be tranquillised. Only then can he make a donation of himself to the other. To the woman. For her good. Not just his own. It is only then, only through this loving self-donation, that the intimate relationship between man and woman can come into being. Marriage is the custom-made product of love.

And this process doesn’t take place only in the Garden Eden. Only at the beginning of Creation. Or even only on a wedding day like today. Or even only during a romantic honeymoon. This laborious custom-made process needs to continue at every moment of every one of the days to come. It has to continue, for example, even when both the man and woman come home after a long and tiring day at work. Looking forward to some down time. Some me time. Eager perhaps to enjoy some tender loving care from the other. Which is all very legitimate. But, for one to receive care, there must also be another willing to offer it. Another willing to take time to put self-interest to sleep. So that self-donation can take place. It is only when both man and woman are willing to do this for each other. And, when children come along, for them as well. And on a regular basis. That the marriage relationship can continue to be created. Continue to be custom-made.

All of which, as those among us who are already married will tell us, is much easier said than done. I imagine that there will perhaps be days in a marriage when, having already given much of oneself, a husband or a wife may feel as though there is just no more to give. How then to carry on? Which is why it’s important for us to consider something else in our readings today. Notice who it is who is ultimately responsible for the process of Creation. Not just the man and the woman. They are involved. But only as generous and obedient collaborators. The process is ultimately in the hands of God. It is God who manufactures the parts. It is God who assembles them. It is God who supplies the power to bring the relationship to life.

Isn’t this why the gospel that you, Andrew and Rachel, have chosen is so important. Here, we’re told that certain kinds of people are blessed. The poor in spirit, the gentle, the mourners, those who seek what is right. What do all these have in common, my dear friends, if not the humility to recognise that what is needed most we are unable to manufacture for ourselves. My dear friends, Andrew and Rachel, the love without which no marriage can survive, is ultimately the precious gift of God. A gift that God happily showers upon us, especially in the Mystery that we are celebrating at this Mass. A gift that we need to continue to beg from God. And to offer to one another in the days to come.

Rachel and Andrew, my dear friends, many of the things we use everyday can be mass-produced. But a marriage needs to be continually custom-made by God. How are we being called to collaborate with God in this creative process today?

1 comment:

  1. As God does not make any carbon copies - we are each uniquely created by God... in His own image and likeness....

    Let us acknowledge God's Power in our lives and grow in greater awareness of His constant PRESENCE within us.

    Let us collaborate with Him, to be the uniquely-significant one and only creation of His. Let us glorify Our God, our Creator and Maker by living and being our true selves, as we continue to grow to be who we really are - children of God our Loving Father.



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