I've noticed for a while now that many of us have little concern for our attire when we come to Mass to worship God in the Eucharist. It's been said often enough that the clothes make the man, or woman for that matter. If it's true, then what does it say about us when we come to Mass dressed in jeans and t-shirts or any other clothing that looks as if we just got out of work, walked in from the beach wearing shorts and flip-flops or dressed in a manner that is immodest at best?
What is it that we've forgotten about God that would make many of us so complacent and uncaring as to how we are dressed when we take the time to come to Mass to worship the Creator? I am not so self-righteous as to suggest that I have not been guilty of dressing negligibly in the past. I am guilty of that, and on more than one occasion, so if it seems I am passing judgement on others, know that I am judging myself first and foremost.
I've made a transition from dressing up for Mass in my youth living in my father's house, to BARELY acceptable attire for a few years while on my own and then slowly began to revert back to wearing appropriate clothes. I say slowly because though I did not dress down for Mass, I didn't wear what I would have considered my best. What caused me to change my mind as to how I should dress for Mass is two fold. First, I noticed others around me and many times what I observed embarrassed me. It did so not only because some people wore scant clothing but for those who were dressed modestly, what they wore was no better than what many of us wear on a regular weekday. Jeans, t-shirts and the like. Second, I didn't feel I could say one thing about it for I saw myself guilty of the same offense: the pot looking at the kettle.
It was on one of those Sundays that I made a decision be begin to wear clothing that said to others around me, that I considered the respect and worship of God central in my life. I looked at what I was currently wearing and decided that I could do much better. If I could dress up for secular occasions that were special, then I most certainly could dress up when in the presence of God in the Eucharist.
When participating in Holy Mass, our dress should reflect the solemnity and holiness of the occasion. The attitude some of us have today of our attire is that how we are dressed should not matter, as long as we are at Mass fulfilling our obligation and God will overlook our lack of discretion. I could not disagree more. What we wear to worship God reveals how much or how little we know of who and what God is and what he's done for us. Never in a million years would the majority of us attend a wedding dressed in jeans and t-shirts. Some of course would and have, but there are always exceptions.
If we were invited to meet with the Queen of England we would make sure we are well dressed and groomed so as to reflect the importance of the occasion and the dignitary in whose presence we stood. We dress in fine array for many occasions which are much less important than the Mass. We know when to dress up and what the convention is regarding certain special occasions when a tie is appropriate and expected.
I knew the situation about wearing inappropriate clothing to Mass was bad when I decided to start wearing a tie and a sports jacket again. I hesitated for I felt like I would stick out like a sore thumb amongst the congregation. NO one dressed like this in my parish. If the occasional person did, they must have felt the eyes of others on them, for they were hiding and were no where to be seen. I stuck to my guns and dressed up. Of course some noticed and the ushers were the first ones. I looked sharp they said and asked if I was going to a special occasion after Mass. Without being prideful, I explained that I looked at what I wore to Mass and felt I could do much better and that this, the Mass, WAS the special occasion. They smiled then nodded in agreement. The next ones to noticed were the people that sat around me every Sunday. One man who chuckled, asked if I was trying make him look bad and again I told him what I told the usher. I was making no judgement on how others were dressing. This was between me and God.
We may not think we influence many in our little circle of daily life, but what I noticed is some of the ushers and that particular man in the pew that sat near me slowly began dressing up more often. I began to feel less self conscience about dressing "differently" and realized that maybe I was becoming an example to other men. I'm not saying that we all dress up in suit coats and ties now that I began to wear them myself, but slowly others seem to be making an effort.
I became a lector again after many months of absence because of my work, but I always dressed up for the days that I was assigned to proclaim the Word. A month ago, my son married and I bought a new three piece suit for the wedding. This is now my Sunday best though I have not worn it to Mass having again hesitated to do so. I will wear it this morning however, for this morning I am the lector again. I feel this suit may be over the top, yet it really isn't. It's only that in the sea of inappropriately dressed worshipers in my parish, I will again feel like I'm sticking out from the others. I've decided to stay my feelings and wear it for God and his Word that I will be proclaiming, and possibly, again, be an example to others.
In this new era of evangelization that the Pope has set forward for all of us, the way we dress for Mass is an opportunity to make others see the importance of Mass and the God we worship. It is an opportunity to say to others by the care we place on how we dress for God, that we respect our King and recognize His love for us. We will be saying to others that He is the Creator of all things and that it is time to recognize this at Mass when we go up for communion to receive God among us.
I am asking for all of us, man or woman, to make more of an effort to put our best selves forward at Mass. I ask that we set aside our laziness and our hesitation of sticking out like a sore thumb in Mass and dress appropriately for God. It is not that difficult as I have found, yet it speaks volumes to those around us that see us and especially to God. We may not all own suits and ties, but most of us do have
clothes that we consider our best. Others may not see them as such, but
God will. It is our best that we should offer at Sunday Mass, for God
himself offered up His best for us.