Blessed Mannes, an older brother of Saint Dominic, born c. 1170. He joined the Order and established the Convent of Saint James in Paris in 1217. A contemporary described him as “a contemplative and holy man, meek and humble, joyful and kind and a zealous preacher”. He died in 1235 and was beatified in 1833.
No doubt I am considered old fashioned and behind the times, but I find it very sad to see people come to Mass on Sunday dressed and looking like they’ve just rolled out of bed. And that’s when they can be bothered to turn up on time. As I have a bird’s eye view of the congregation it’s depressing to see some people come to worship God under-dressed and yawning every ten minutes. I suppose, that like receiving Holy Communion in a grubby hand, there are arguments for this casual approach to Catholic worship today. But how does that approach gel with what we hear in today’s Gospel?
The under-dressed man is condemned because it was the custom in the old days for the host to provide his guests with lavish garments to be worn at the feast; and so it would have been seen as an insult not to wear them. No wonder he was thrown out of the feast.
Surely people don’t want to appear before God, arrayed in all his majesty, dressed in an old, dirty tee shirt and torn jeans. We have already accepted God’s invitation to the heavenly banquet and we want to be sure we’re wearing the garment Our Lord has provided for us. It’s the garment of purity we received at Baptism. It’s the same white garment that the saints in heaven are wearing. We need to protect it, keep it clean, and make sure it’s spotless when we come face to face with Our Lord. Surely our outward expression of this interior attitude is to dress up for Mass on Sunday, or indeed, whenever we go to Mass.
Our approach to God in prayer, both personal prayer and liturgical prayer is crucial. When we come into God’s presence, we trade in our old, dirty clothes for his brand-new garment. And our garments are upgraded every time we perform good works. Every act of kindness and mercy cleans us up a bit more. Every decision to forgive removes our own stains. Every gift given to the needy lifts us up.
It’s not that hard to wear the right garment. Our Lord gives us countless opportunities each day to do just that, and all because he wants us to join him at the heavenly banquet.