by Fr Richard Heilman | September 23, 2015 10:36 pm
“And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.” -Matthew 22:11-14.
The wedding garment represents a desire or “effort” or “striving” to offer due honor to God. Fear of the Lord actually means a fear that we may displease the One we love SO MUCH!!
We live in times when “effort” does not seem to matter … that God loves us just the way we are, and we have no need to strive be the best we can be. Yet, that is the very antithesis of all Jesus taught, especially here: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” Matthew 5:46-48.
In reflecting on his father’s ability to bring the best out in a man, Vince Lombardi Jr. wrote in his book, What It Takes to Be #1, that this kind of hunger or striving for excellence is hard to find today: “We live in a time when authority is questioned, gratification is instant, morals are relative, ethics are situational, and the truth is apparently what we decide it is. We lead lives of comfort and ease and, as a result, we’ve lost our hunger to lead and achieve. Today, fewer people are willing to make the sacrifices that are necessary to become a leader.”
Yes, in this namby-pamby, “everyone-gets-a-trophy” world in which we now live, we’ve lost the “drive to strive.” And yet, this striving cuts to the very core of who we are. The Church Fathers of Vatican II stated, significantly, “All the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive.”
I say all this in the context of something that, for some, seems trivial, but is a very profound statement of what may lie in their heart. I am speaking about how we present ourselves to the King. Yes, it may seem trivial, but think of the children, for instance. They watch … they know … they pick up on the smallest cues. If we “truly” want them to know “this is God” in the Most Holy Eucharist, yet everyone arrives dressed like they were at a tailgate party, what do the children think? “Mommy! I thought you said that was God! How could it be, if people don’t care to present their best to Him???”
Of course we always hear the excuse that some cannot afford the appropriate attire. Quick story: I presided at the wedding of a friend. His daughter got married. I know they have many children, and live on a very tight budget, but he was the best dressed there. I complimented him. He turned to me and winked, “Five bucks at St. Vinnie’s” (meaning, St. Vincent de Paul). It was his daughter’s wedding … where there is a will, there is a way.
But, I never heard it expressed as well as I did here, from my friend, Laura Zimmerman:
We require long skirts or dresses for our girls (gotta love the “maxi” skirts all over the place these days!) with a modest top. No bare shoulders (we have bolero jackets and sweaters available). Our boys wear black pants, black socks, black shoes, and a dress shirt with t-shirt underneath. I don’t require ties, but I don’t discourage them, either. Most times the dress shirt is discarded in the sacristy; they only wear their undershirts beneath their cassocks/surplices.
Husband wears dress pants and shirt or sweater. Youngest 3 girls and I all veil; older two girls sometimes do and sometimes don’t. Honestly I don’t know what their motivation is in either direction…each has a lovely veil. I know it has to be their own choice though. We only started veiling a couple of years ago, when they were 13 and 17, so it’s not something they’ve always done. The little girls are 2, 4 and 6, so hopefully it is something that will stick with them.
We are approaching GOD in His house. If we were approaching court, or a business meeting, or even a job interview, we would dress for the occasion. If my husband thinks he’ll have the chance to go to Mass during the day, he takes extra clothing. A person can always put a clean shirt over a grungy one, and there are wrinkle-free pants available that will roll into a small parcel and can be changed in the rest room. Same goes for skirts. They’re very packable these days.
There is never really an excuse, unless, as you have said frequently here, Father Richard, one just doesn’t care to make an effort. Second hand stores and garage/yard sales offer nice clothing for very little cost. Even our budget will stretch that far. And because so many people shuck off their nice clothing so easily, there’s an abundance of modesty on the racks at St. Vinnie’s or Savers or Goodwill. It’s not hard to find. And those places are almost always on a bus line, since so many of the shoppers take the bus to get there in the first place…so even transportation isn’t a problem. And with craigslist available now, if you have a smart phone, a computer, or a library with a computer (which we all have), you can shop there for affordable options, too.
Funny thing about dressing up–the act of putting on nice clothing moves to bring your spirit in line with your body.
Notice the attire of the homeless when they met the pope. Where there is a will, there is a way. “The King is here!!! Let us don our wedding garments!!!”
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