Among the many things I have been called in my life, being a clothes hound is not one of them. It is not that I don’t have too many clothes (I do), but that I really do not care much about what I am wearing. It has never made much sense to me. While I know there are many people who put lots of time and effort into the clothes they wear, it has just never made much sense to me. I really see clothes as a necessity, but do not really want to sped much time or money on them.
While I know that I am not alone among those who feel this way, I am also well aware of just how many pay great attention and money to their clothing. Even a casual examination of the Sunday newspaper shows numerous ads from companies who want to sell people clothing. There are so many types of stores, clothing and possibilities it is hard to imagine them all. There are those clothes sold second hand, and those that are sold in expensive luxury shops.
I am not sure why I do not care much about the clothes I wear. (Maybe that is why I became a Dominican. Much easier to wear the habit than worry about this or that style.) I like not having to worry about what I am going to put on in the morning.
I must say I also find that the fewer clothes I can buy, the more my conscience is eased. So much of the clothing we wear today was made for substandard wages in other parts of the world. It is almost impossible to find clothing made in this country. And the more we learn about where these clothes are made, and how little those who make them get paid, maybe we would all be served to look a little more at the clothes we wear and what we need.
In a spiritual sense, the clothes we put on each day are not pants and shirts, but what we put on each day is such things as heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. In fact close examination suggests that it is not just wearing heartfelt compassion, or kindness, humility or gentleness, or patience but is also being willing to witness visibly to bearing with one another and forgiving one another. When we wear these things, no one is oppressed.
And wearing this type of “clothing” does not require others to work for insanely low wages, but requires the wearer to pay special attention to the way in which others are allowed to live the Christian life. We cannot simply ask God for forgiveness, we need to forgive. It is not simply that we should expect things to be given to us, but we must be generous. These statements and more depend not only upon what it is that others do for us, but stand alone. That is, we must forgive even if others will not. We must be generous even when others are selfish.
Why? Because we have received forgiveness we did not deserve. We have received kindnesses and generosities that we should not have received. We do not deserve God’s love, and we do not deserve God’s forgiveness or grace, and so as persons who freely received we too must freely give. The gospel picks up on this theme. Go the extra mile, not because of others, but because you can freely do so.
The gospel, the first reading, both challenge us to make sure that we know deep within ourselves the word of God, and the presence of God, which is no farther away than our own heart. The task is challenging, but the grace is more powerful, more loving, more life-changing. For only in so doing is our heart opened enough to receive all of the eternal love God longs to extend to all.