“Some however, did receive Him and believed in Him; so He gave them the right to become God's children. They did not become God's children by natural means that is, by being born as the children of a human father; GOD HIMSELF WAS THEIR FATHER” John 1:12-13.
Reading this verse made me realise many years ago the wonderful privilege we have as Catholic Christians. We receive Him (Jesus) and we do believe in Him; therefore we are indeed God's children as quoted in John 1:12-13 above. Every mass is an invitation to our Father's House to celebrate being totally in communion with Jesus in Holy Communion. Wow, doesn't it make you feel 10 feet tall! We are indeed children of the Father - the Alpha, the Omega, the beginning and the end, the Creator, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and the Ruler of all. Have I missed any other glorious name for the LIVING GOD?
His Word confirms that we are much more than just “His creation” created in His image. Out of the millions in the world, He has raised us to the level of sons and daughters because of our faith in Jesus. We can safely say that we are the royalty of the world. What an identity, don't you think? No one can out-do us on that front, but are we really reflecting THIS TRUTH in our lives?
Often we seem to be caught in an IDENTITY CRISIS! We are so absorbed with what is happening around us that we can't tell the difference between our living in the world and the world living in us. It is this fine line between the two that makes it a great challenge for us Catholic Christians to live out our identity to be the SALT of the earth and the LIGHT of the world.
“MODESTY,” I believe, is the hallmark of every Catholic Christian, i.e. everyone, who through the sacrament of Baptism, identifies with John 1:12-13. Yet the common complaint is “we feel social pressure to dress immodestly at a party, where other women are dressed provocatively.” I am puzzled why we should feel intimidated or why we need to follow these shameless creatures who would bare all for a gimmick.
I am sure you will agree that there seems to be a rising trend for a daring show of flesh at every opportunity by a growing number of women who ironically are blessed with good looks and even talent. It makes me wonder:
Consequently, I notice that this social pressure on dressing is even creeping very subtly into our churches. Remember the days when we used to strain our necks, waiting expectantly for the demure blushing bride to walk down the church aisle? Well, nowadays, we can stop looking - as there are some brides who can really make you blush instead!
Apparently HOLLYWOOD and BOLLYWOOD and whatever-wood seem to have an effect in the attire of the wedding couple. It makes me wonder, at such a special moment in life, are these couples conscious about the covenant they make in marriage with the ETERNAL ONE who binds them in HOLY matrimony? It seems to be a trend for brides to uncover as much flesh as legally possible and look like something the cat dragged in from the street. I am sorry if I sound harsh, but something has to be done to STOP this desecration of the church which is HOLY GROUND and the SACREDNESS of the marriage ceremony! Don't these brides realise that one day they will become mothers? How can they even begin to talk to their children about modesty or honour, when they have shown neither on THE MOST IMPORTANT day in their lives? The same goes for the bridesmaids. Sorry to say this, but they appear to be close competitors, arriving in bareback and halter necks. Has COMMON SENSE AND DECENCY flown out of the window for churches to accept these parades?
I was very happy indeed to hear that a parish priest in Malaysia took the trouble to give advice to brides-to-be regarding their dressing. They could, of course, choose to ignore his advice, but if they do, he gave fair warning that he would personally meet them at the door of the church and cover them with a white cloth for the whole church ceremony. I congratulate him for taking such a stand,-as rightfully every priest should-to dissuade couples from this nonsensical show of ignorance on the sacredness of the Sacrament they celebrate.
Some people, who flock to our churches on a Sunday morning, seem to have this strange notion that God accepts them as they are - they can come as they please in the scantiest, in the shabbiest, in their most comfortable casuals, why even in shorts as long as they attend mass and fulfil their obligation. Reality check, people! I believe that people who have no qualms of such behaviour are the scourge of the faithful and an insult to the Living God. I doubt they would be caught DEAD in that attire at their offices or social functions. Why, they know very well they would be escorted out by the security guards! Even if they don't fear God, at the very least they should have some respect for the congregation who gather in church for Sunday mass.
Recently, when I visited Singapore, I heard of churches imposing a dress code for the congregation, so I was especially eager to see how effective it was. In fact, I wanted to take a copy to show to our local parish priest. However, when I came to the church, St. Mary of the Angels, I was very surprised that people here were so lax in their attire for Sunday mass. It saddened me that we have become so lukewarm in our faith that we don't even pay attention to the externals, which I am sure you will agree, is a reflection of the depth of our INTERNALS (our faith).
Correct me if I am wrong. If I believe that I am coming before God and receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, would I not pay more attention to how I present myself? The Responsorial Psalmist at this church was so casually dressed and so was the 2nd reader, dressed in t-shirt! What sort of an understanding do both these people have on the significance of their role in Sunday Mass? Don't they realise it is God's Word that they are proclaiming? The choir members facing the congregation were dressed as if they were in a stadium watching football.
What will it take for people to understand that the Church is HOLY GROUND, and even more so the Sanctuary? What really was the final straw was a Eucharistic Minister with his shirt out casually walking with the hosts. I should think our shepherds need a WAKE UP call to address the liturgical team on reverence in carrying out their individual tasks in the celebration of SUNDAY MASS.
Things have gotten so far out of hand, that it is necessary now for priests to stress DECENCY, MODESTY and WHAT IS ACCEPTABLE ATTIRE to come into the church especially on a Sunday! It may be acceptable to be casually attired if you stop by a church to visit the Blessed Sacrament on a weekday, but not for Sunday mass. Let us bring back some DISCIPLINE and GOOD SENSE to the church. I wouldn't mind if it was some poor soul who can't afford to be properly attired, but the people I saw that day certainly did not fall in that category.
It may not be a popular stand to emphasize the need for proper decorum in our place of worship, but it certainly has to be done before it is too late. On this point I have great admiration for our Hindu and Muslim brothers and sisters who dress modestly when they go to the temple or mosque-and we are supposed to be believers in Jesus Christ and therefore CHILDREN OF GOD? Does our attitude and attire really reflect that we believe in the presence of God in our churches? This is a crucial question that we need to answer as Catholics…. BELIEVERS! Ironic isn't it, there are people who don't seem to have any problems walking in suits and ties to work or even weddings, yet they seem to have a problem wearing a long sleeve shirt, proper trousers and shoes to church!
Some questions to reflect on the next time we dress for Sunday mass:
I conclude with the following verse from scripture:
“Surely you know that you are GOD'S TEMPLE and that GOD'S SPIRIT lives in you!” (1 Cor. 3:16.)
Let us cling to God's Word and treat our bodies (God's Temple) with respect and not be intimidated by the immoral inclinations of any society because “GOD's SPIRIT” lives in us!!!
And we shall overcome the world because “I have the strength to face ALL conditions by the POWER that Christ gives me” (Philippians 4:13)
God Bless you on your faith journey.
--- by Madonna Egbert
Church of the Immaculate Conception
Port Dickson, 71000