“Clothe the naked”
We probably do not see people very often who are literally shivering in the cold, but many poor and homeless people rely on charitable organizations for their clothing. One very direct way to carry out this work of mercy is to go through our own closets a couple of times a year and donate some of the clothing crammed into our closets. Better yet, perhaps we could develop the habit when shopping to buy some new clothing to give away – if you were in the position of someone who had to go to a thrift shop, wouldn’t it be a treat to find something new there?
There is a social dimension to this work, too: often our “bargains” are paid for by the sweat of people laboring in inhuman conditions here and abroad. We have a moral responsibility to take a peek behind the stylish logo of popular clothing and shoes and if we find that the item has been produced at the cost of the human dignity of those who made it, we should boycott that product and let the manufacturer know why.
Clothing is not only necessary for protection; we need it to maintain our human dignity. Contrast two scenes in the Gospel: when the prodigal son returns home, the father gives him his best robe, shoes on his feet, and a ring. These items symbolize the young man’s dignity as the father’s son, and show that his position has been restored to him. By contrast, in the Stations of the Cross we meditate on the stripping of Jesus; this act of humiliation was inflicted on him several times during his Passion. To take away his clothing was to steal from him any standing in the human community, and to humiliate him profoundly.
This work of mercy also challenges us to confront the crime of sexual exploitation in our society, and in particular the plague of pornography. This multi-billion dollar industry is founded on the heinous act of stripping men, women, and even children of their basic human dignity. If it is a virtue to clothe the naked, it is a sin to strip the clothed.
In the first book of the Bible, God made garments to clothe Adam and Eve (Gen 3:21). In the last book of the Bible we are given a vision of the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (cf. Rev 21:2). When the moment of glory comes, may we be among those who saw the Lord in our sisters and brothers, and clothed him (cf. Matt 25:38).
Please check out the statement from Bishop Nelson Perez regarding Religious Freedom Week 2018 (June 22-29) on page 5 of this issue, and see page 6 for further ways to pray, reflect and act on behalf of religious freedom.