UP TO LONDON TO SEE THE QUEEN! The stuff of fairy-story day-dreams of little girls….but not a dream for my beloved Aunt. Her Prince-Charming, her husband, was to receive at Buckingham Palace a Knighthood for distinguished public service.
Horror of horrors! As they approached the Palace gates my Aunt began to preen herself she happened to glance down towards her feet. Alas! Alas! Before her very eyes she saw PINK BED-ROOM SLIPPERS WITH FLUFFY POM-POMS! What had graced her bedroom would shame her in the Palace Reception Room!
What to do? Re-route the taxi and search streets of the metropolis for a quality shoe-shop. No problem! But what a blessing to have an alert Guardian Angel who had saved her from an embarrassment she’d have to live with for the rest of her days…not to mention whispered ridicule from the rest of us - her mischievous family.
Almost from the beginning of the Bible, from the moment of Original Disobedience, clothes became an issue for that couple who up till then had been living together in innocent nudity. In the passing of time “Something has to be worn” has developed into “ What is the right thing to wear for this particular occasion?”
Most tellingly this becomes an issue in the Parable of the Wedding Feast of the King’s Son. There was that insolent fellow who deliberately joined the guests without the appropriate clothes that were easily available to him. He was looking to create a scene. He got more than he would have bargained for. “The king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth,” (Mtt. 22.14).
The most obvious lesson from this parable is surely that Almighty God has His standards and that He insists on these being observed. While He will be lenient with those who, through no fault of their own, don’t know any better, He will certainly find blatant defiance totally unacceptable.
St. Paul brilliantly uses our daily experience of getting dressed to describe the glory of being a Christian. “All of you are the children of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus, since every one of you that has been baptised has been clothed in Christ,” (Gal 3.26-7). The newly baptized is then addressed with the words, ‘You have become a new creation. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity.”
St. Paul carries this clothing imagery yet further as he enjoins us “2 As the chosen of God, then, the holy people whom he loves, you are to be clothed in heartfelt compassion, in generosity and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other if one of you has a complaint against another. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, put on love, the perfect bond.(Col. 3.12-14)
However, St. Paul would have us know that following Jesus, sharing in the good works and holiness of Jesus would be more than challenging and fulfilling. It would be threatening and even bruising. For the rough and tumble of Christian discipleship we would need to be well armed and protected. If we are to have any chance of survival St. Paul instructs us,
“Finally, grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power. Put on the full armour of God so as to be able to resist the devil's tactics. .. For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the principalities and the ruling forces who are masters of the darkness in this world, the spirits of evil in the heavens. That is why you must take up all God's armour, or you will not be able to put up any resistance on the evil day, or stand your ground even though you exert yourselves to the full. (Eph.6).
I have to admit that without my aunt and her little piece of foolishness I would never have been inspired to write this reflection. Her saga of the slippers has taught me there is the convention of certain shoes for certain situations.
However, Christ-like qualities that clothe our personalities will always fit us well!
Peter Clarke, O.P.