Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Allure of Need



Wedding Mass of Jonathan & Grace

Readings: Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 33; Colossians 3:12-17; Matthew 5:1-12
Picture: cc leniners

Jonathan and Grace, my dear friends, what exactly is it that attracts you to someone? What are the things that might make you consider entering into a relationship with that person? Even to marry him or her? Perhaps some of us are attracted to a person’s strengths and achievements. The gifts that the person has to offer. Like musical talent, for example. Or the ability to make us laugh. But isn’t it true that there is something else that may attract us even more? Can you guess what this is?

I’m not sure, since I’m not an expert in such things. But I think that what’s perhaps even more attractive than a person’s strength is perhaps his/her weakness. Isn’t it true that many of us, whether we care to admit it or not, cannot help but be drawn to people who need us? People who are vulnerable in some way. And who are not afraid to show us that vulnerability. To open up a space for us in their lives.

I mention this, because this attractiveness, this allure of weakness, seems to be something that characterises the love story that we have gathered here to celebrate. As some of you already know, Jonathan and Grace first met at the 2011 Tri-Varsity Games. Where they happened to be teammates representing NTUCSA in the Ultimate Frisbee competition. (There may be a valuable lesson to be learned here.) But it wasn’t really their frisbee skills that got their relationship started. According to Jonathan, during the post games makan, his attention was drawn to (in his own words) a quiet, bespectacled, nerdy-looking girl who was using her phone. Quite interestingly, it was her shyness that drew Jonathan to Grace. So he struck up a conversation with her by pointing out that they both had phones of a similar make and model.

But that’s not all. For even though they didn’t exchange contacts during that first meeting, Grace somehow managed to get in touch with Jon some time later. And how did she signal her interest in him? How did she move the relationship along? You guessed it. By demonstrating her need for him. She asked him to help her increase the speed of her phone. After that, Jon was hooked. No turning back anymore…

Again, I’m not sure my dear friends, but I think that there is an important lesson here. Something that this lovely couple, Grace and Jon, are trying to share with us today. The lesson that good, strong and lasting relationships need to be built not just on strength. But also on weakness. Isn’t this also the message that we find in the readings that they have chosen for the occasion?

In the first reading, we find the account of how God creates the first relationship between humans. How does this come about? It begins with a need. A weakness. It is not good that the man should be alone, God says. The man needs a suitable companion. But he is unable to find one on his own. He needs God’s help. And God helps by first putting the man to sleep. By silencing his ego. So that the man can give away a part of himself. And, in the process, the first human relationship is born. Born as much out of human weakness as the power of God.

The second reading has a similar message. St. Paul reminds his readers that, as God’s chosen race, there is a certain uniform that they need to put on. Certain clothes that they need to wear. The virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and, ultimately, love. Which is another way of saying that they need to put on Christ himself. Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you. But how are we to put on Christ, if not by first acknowledging our own nakedness. Recognising that the clothes we often wear, the clothes that the world gives us to wear, the garments of self absorption and anxious self assertion, are nothing more than rags. We are able to put on Christ only by acknowledging our need for him.

Which also helps us to understand what Jesus is teaching in the gospel. The beatitudes present us with a list of needy people, whom Jesus proclaims to be blessed. People who are blessed precisely in their weakness. For God delights in coming to satisfy their need for him. As the psalmist tells us: The Lord fills the earth with his love. All we need to do is make a space in our hearts and in our lives to receive the love that God has to offer us. And we do this by humbly recognising and acknowledging, perhaps even proclaiming, our need for God. Not unlike how Grace captured Jonathan’s heart by asking for his help to upgrade her phone.

Jonathan and Grace, I’m not sure, but I think that this is the invaluable lesson that you are sharing with us today. Even as we gather to celebrate your love for each other. The lesson that there is a charming, perhaps even irresistible attractiveness to weakness and vulnerability. And that it is often precisely in courageously acknowledging and even professing our need for one another and for God that true love is born. Again and again. Among us. And into our world.

My dear friends, even as we rejoice with Jonathan and Grace, even as we offer them our friendship and love, our prayers and good wishes, perhaps we need also to consider our own need for one another. Our own need for love. Our own need for God.

Sisters and brothers, do you perhaps have a phone that needs upgrading today?

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