December 9, 2012
Anyone who has ever watched the Academy Awards ceremony from Los Angeles knows that the first phase begins on the red carpet. There, bevies of media reporters try to stop the stars for an interview as they walk towards the auditorium. In the few minutes that they are able to detain the celebrities before they invariably move away, they always ask one question: “Who are you wearing?” The reporters want to know the name of the designer who fashioned the dress or tuxedo that the movie star has chosen. Knowing the name is important because the person who fashioned your clothing indicates your star power and reveals in an intimate way something about your person.
The prophet, Baruch, in today’s first reading knows of this association. Baruch is writing to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. Their condition is dismal. And it is in that miserable situation that Baruch tells them to change their clothing. He directs them to put off their robe of mourning and misery and to be clothed in the splendor of God. He tells them to wear on their heads a miter which bears the eternal name of God. So, if someone were to ask the Jewish exiles “Who are you wearing?” Baruch would want them to answer, “We are wearing God.”
Our Christian faith is rooted in the faith of Israel. We share with Israel the conviction that when we wrap ourselves in God’s promises, when we clothe ourselves with God’s power, we will have the strength to face whatever trial or burden comes to us. Whether that burden is exile, rejection, or sickness, whether it is financial hardship or personal misunderstanding, when we dress ourselves in God’s glory, we can face the future, we can find strength for living.
It is not, however, always easy to dress ourselves in God’s splendor. Many times we doubt whether the clothes God has given us to wear will be sufficient. Will I have the patience and wisdom to help heal the divisions I find in my family? Will I be able to protect my children and grandchildren from negative relationships and influences that can harm them? Will I find the strength to carry my grief or to work through my depression, so I can live again? When we look at the hardships and challenges of life, we can often question whether the clothes that God wants us to put on will be enough. We wonder whether God is really serious about saving us.
Here is where the Christian dimension of our faith can make a difference. The fourteenth century mystic, Julian of Norwich, has written a reflection on the mystery of God becoming human—the truth which we know as “the incarnation.” She describes this mystery in a dramatic way. She says that Jesus took up our flesh and blood and put on our human nature “like a tunic, close-fitting and threadbare.” By means of this image, Julian of Norwich suggests that before we are invited to put on God, God has first put on us. In taking up our human nature, Jesus demonstrated God’s commitment and love for us in the most personal and intimate way.
The incarnation should give us confidence that God will provide for us whatever wisdom, courage, or strength we need. A God who has become one of us will not abandon us. A Christ who has taken up our human nature will not forget us. This truth should give us the confidence to robe ourselves in God’s glory, so that when people ask us “Who are you wearing”? we can proudly say, “We are wearing God.” And when they question, “What gives you the right to be attired with such hope and splendor?” we can simply say, “We are wearing God, because God first chose to wear us.”