I felt all eyes on me as I walked gingerly down the aisle. I quickly slid into a pew, anxious to have Mass done and over with.
Usually I prided myself on looking somewhat decent when I went to mass. But here I was on vacation. I had no proper mass clothing in my luggage, and what I was left with was a pair of very casual shorts and a green sweatshirt.
This must be what models feel like when they’re walking the runway, I thought to myself. But that really wasn’t the attention I wanted.
You’re probably wondering why I was so concerned about what I was wearing.
I usually dress quite well when going to Mass, because of the whole concept of “Sunday best”. This particular Sunday, I was definitely not at my best.
At this point, you’re probably thinking to yourself, what difference does your outfit make? After all, you made it to Mass and God loves you for who you are on the inside. If you’re focused too much on your outfit, you become shallow, narcissistic, and superficial.
I had been called all of those things before, though there was one particular moment when I really started to think about why I continued to dress up when going to Mass.
It was a summer morning and I was wearing brand new shoes and a dress that I had just gotten. When I saw a friend after mass, she whispered into my ear, “Who are you trying to impress?”
I felt kind of hurt, but I responded that this was my Sunday best. She looked at me as if I had two heads. “You don’t have to try so hard though,” she responded casually.
But the thing is that I do have to try my best, because this is all for God. Let me explain why.
Over the years, I have seen a decline in people coming to Mass in their Sunday best.
This is by no mean a judgment on my part; rather, its pure observation. I have watched more and more people come into the church wearing jeans (with the trend heading towards ripped at the knees), hooded sweatshirts, basketball shorts, and even sweats.
You might be angry at this point, asking why I’m acting all superior just because of that one time I wore a dress. To come back to the point made above, God doesn’t care what you wear. He loves you for who you are, not for what you’re wearing.
And I get that. Our God is one who loves you and I unconditionally, regardless of what state we’re in.
But I think that the point of Sunday best has shifted. It’s not so much a point of impressing people with our sense of style, but rather a point of respect when we enter into God’s house.
To give an example, let’s say that the parents of your significant other invited you over for dinner.
Though you might have met them before, this meeting is a little different. It feels a little more special than the other times that you shared casual conversation with them.
I’m inclined to say that you’ll probably dress up for this dinner. Not ‘revisiting your prom night’ fancy, but you probably won’t show up in sweat pants and an old sweater.
Why would you dress up? Some reasons might include that don’t want to disappoint your significant other, you want to leave a good impression, or because you want to be as respectful as possible towards his or her parents.
So now, let’s pretend that it’s God inviting you to His house. Would you dress up for Him, so as to not disappoint, to leave a good impression, and to be as respectful as possible?
However, this isn’t a game of pretend. God welcomes you, with open arms, to His house every single week. I’m inclined to say yes, we should dress up for Him.
I want to reiterate that the Mass shouldn’t be Vancouver Fashion Week.
We shouldn’t be dressing up for the sake of drawing attention to ourselves. We should look to dress appropriately for the sake of being at our best for God.
The Mass is one of the most important celebrations that you and I will ever have the opportunity of attending, and the wonderful thing is that we have this opportunity every single week. With something so sacred and beautiful, how can we not be dressed up?
You’re right to say that God sees the beauty of a calm and gentle spirit (1 Peter 3:4), even beyond anything that we could ever wear to Mass. But there is something about wearing a nice dress or a sharp suit that helps us sit up straight and become more aware of our surroundings.
Quite simply, wearing clothes that are meant for sleeping in will probably result in you sleeping through the whole celebration. And just the way that you wouldn’t want to be caught dozing off in the middle of a party, God wants for you to participate in the celebration of the Mass fully and whole-heartedly.
At the end of the day, God loves all of us for who we are. This is why He is such a good father. St. Paul begs of us in his letter to the Romans to “offer [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). I firmly believe that it is in giving of our whole self that we can truly be present for God.
If He can give us so much at all times of the day for all eternity, the least we can do is to dress in our best clothes when we come to meet Him.
Special thank you to the following people who helped to make this piece come alive:
Fr. Tran and Fr. Nixon of St. Matthew’s Parish in Surrey for allowing us to shoot these photos. Learn more about St. Matthew’s Parish here!
Elijah Bautista for taking these stunning photos. Check out more of Elijah’s work here!
Matthew Furtado for being such a great model!