Every winter, you can hear mothers all around the world telling their children to bundle up warm before they go outside. Of course, that’s really good advice to give kids. But if you were to put six coats, four pairs of gloves, and three hats on a corpse, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.
The purpose of the extra clothing is to help preserve the body’s own heat—heat that is generated by a pumping heart, breathing lungs, and coursing blood. Unless a person is alive, outer clothing doesn’t matter.
Imagery like this can help us understand how the Holy Spirit works on our inner lives, while we make decisions about how we will live in the outer world. It is the Spirit’s role to form us interiorly so that we give the world an attractive witness of love, joy, and compassion.
In this issue of The Word Among Us, we want to reflect on this interior-exterior theme by looking at the way St. Paul tells us to “clothe ourselves” in Christ. Paul begins by saying that we who were baptized were given a new life in Christ—clothed with him from the moment of our baptism. Through no effort of our own, by the virtue of the sacrament itself, we are made into a new creation.
But that is only the beginning. If we want our baptism to change us interiorly, we have a significant part to play. It’s up to us to put on the clothing of Christ each day—just as we physically dress ourselves each day. Fr. Henri Nouwen once wrote: “Being a believer means being clothed in Christ… . This is much more than wearing a cloak… . It refers to a total transformation that allows us to say with Paul: ‘I have been crucified with Christ and yet I am alive; yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me’” (Galatians 2:19-20).
When we freely choose to put on our spiritual clothes every day, good things begin to happen. The Holy Spirit produces change—change in our personalities, our priorities, and our prayer. We become, as Fr. Nouwen says, the “living Christ in the world.” What is alive in our hearts shines out from us.
Over and over again, Pope Benedict XVI has called us to evangelize. I recently read one of his addresses at World Youth Day 2007, in which he challenged us to bring one person per year to Christ. Whenever he talks about evangelization, the Holy Father never fails to mention the need for interior faith, not just church membership. He loves to emphasize that it is the work of the Spirit within us that will make us—and our faith—attractive to the people we are trying to evangelize. So when we wake up every day, let’s be sure to reach into the closet of faith and clothe ourselves with Christ. Then let’s go out and be his witnesses, “modeling” his fine clothing to the world. May God bless you.