“This is what God wants, - a full church, a chorus of children, and everyone dressed in their “Sunday best.”
Apr 19, 2018
Dear parish family,
As I reflect on the many blessings of Easter, my mind goes back to the 9:30am Mass of Easter Sunday which was practically standing room only. The pews were packed, the babies making their joyful presence known, and so many were dressed so beautifully. It moved me to say to all present, “This is what God wants.” It felt like I was a kid again- a full church, a chorus of children, and everyone dressed in their “Sunday best.” If you ask me what is my goal for All Saints, I will tell you, that is my goal- crowds of families praising God and giving Him their best. It is not that I just want to fill the pews, it is that I want to fill Heaven and I know the way to do so is by first filling the pews. Now realistically, I know we have no control over how many people come (although we can make our community as welcoming and loving as possible), and I can’t force people to have or bring their babies to Mass (as much as I wish that were possible), but there is one thing which we all can do to replicate that day which is in our own power and that is to dress our best for the Lord. Before anyone gets angry and stops reading, let me explain what I am asking by first telling you what I am not asking. I am not asking that everyone go out and buy new wardrobes. I am simply saying that we wear the best we have- no new purchase necessary (unless all we have is immodest which doesn’t seem to be the case here, thanks be to God.)
So, I am not saying that if you only have sneakers to run out and buy shoes, but I am asking that if you have sneakers, you wear the best you have. I am not saying that if you only have jeans that you must by dress pants, I’m just asking that you were the neatest, non-torn pair you have. We should also avoid skin tight and ripped in strategic places, as we shouldn’t pray “Lead us not into temptation” while we are placing other people into temptation with our “eye-catching” attire. In fact, if we ever put something on and say to ourselves, “This make's me look hot” we should never wear it to Mass and, as Christians, not wear it ever so as to not be a near occasion of sin- this applies to both men and women. Both sexes can be guilty of this in our manner of dress.
Just because it is hot outside, doesn’t mean that adults should be in shorts or flip-flops. How we dress directly speaks to how we perceive the solemnity of the event. I once went to a wedding where the bride’s problem brother was totally inadequately dressed for the reception. Nobody said, “We should just be happy he is here” everyone saw it as a lack of respect. We, likewise, need to divest ourselves of the “God should be happy I am here” mentality for it is we who should be happy He has invited us to the Heavenly Banquet, the Sacrifice of Calvary and we should give Him our best as He gives us in every Holy Mass.
In my first assignment as a priest in Sea Isle City, I once witnessed an exchange of two families coming out of Mass. The one invited the other to dinner with them at a particular restaurant and the other family replied, “Okay, but we have to go home and change first. They will never let us in dressed like this.” It broke my heart to hear. I don’t know what their “best” was, but I know they weren’t even wearing close to it for God. Doesn’t He deserve our best? Isn’t every Sunday a weekly Easter?
So, to reiterate I am not telling people to go and buy new things. I am just saying that, from what we already own, let us bring out our best for God. Believe it or not, we will be silently evangelizing as we do so. If people see you pulling out the best you have, they will know that you believe you are going to do something important. If we look like we just rolled off of the Boardwalk, people will get the message that the Mass is no different than any other place. The whole reason we have beautiful churches, golden vessels, and vestments is to speak to the holiness of what we are doing. Let’s all make a conscious effort to communicate that when we pick out our wardrobe for Holy Mass.
Please, do not look uncharitably or be judgmental if someone’s “best” is different than yours. However, don’t be afraid at home to say to your own family, “Please don’t wear shorts or flip flops” to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. That is the very least we can do for God (Unless someone in the 3rd world doesn’t own anything else, but we just went through Winter so I know that is not the case in Millville.)
Trust me, in this, Father knows best. I love you all.
In Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
† Father Peter Idler