Dressed to Impress
I was fortunate to have spent eleven years of my priesthood working in the West Indies. For anyone who visits that part of the world, one of the things you might notice is that everyone seems to have a uniform. For example, on my little island of Tortola, on important days, such as the Queen’s Birthday, the Governor would don his ceremonial white uniform, resplendent with sword, pith helmet and feathers and inspect the parade. If you were an immigration officer at the airport, you had a uniform; a customs officer, you had a uniform; a prison officer at HM Prison, you had a uniform. All taxi drivers had uniforms, indicating what part of the island they came from. All the different islands had very distinct national dress which told you who they were and where they came from.
For major civic functions, such as Emancipation Day or Remembrance Day, I would not dare turn up without wearing my full clerical outfit – just as all the other religious ministers turned up in their religious uniforms. Our uniforms were our identity. They told everyone who we were and what we did. It was a natural part of life.
Christians, however, have always had a difficult time in telling the world who we are. If only we had a uniform, some symbol to tell the world! Sure, religious orders throughout history have tried to distinguish themselves by their religious habits and we are not averse to wearing a symbol such as a crucifix as an outward sign to the world of who we are and what we believe. But these are just external symbols that distinguish believers from non-believers and, for Jesus, I would imagine the whole question to be a little superficial.
For Jesus, the essential mark of distinction between Christians and non-Christians, for a believer and a non-believer, is not in the way we dress or what we wear, but in the way we live. In this week’s short, but punchy Gospel you will hear those words that you have probably heard a thousand times: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-5).
Love is the Christian identity. Love is the Christian uniform. Love is the Christian habit. If you are wearing the habit of love, you are in. If you are not wearing love as a habit, you are out.
Perhaps it is as simple as that!
Wishing you every blessing for the week ahead,