I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul. For he has clothed me with a robe of salvation, and wrapped me in a mantle of justice (Isaiah 61:10).
Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh (Romans 13:13-14).
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27).
For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love (Galatians 5:13).
This is the second in a series of articles on what it means to be transformed by clothing ourselves with Christ. The image of clothing shows up a number of times in the Bible, often used as an outer reflection of people’s inner states. Reflecting on the state of the people of Israel, for example, the Book of Isaiah says, “All our good deeds are like polluted rags” (Isaiah 64:5). Even in the Book of Revelation, St. John describes the church glorified as a “bride” dressed in a “bright, clean linen garment,” which “represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones” (Revelation 19:7-8).
Clearly, our heavenly Father wants to see us clothed in holiness and righteousness. He wants to see us wearing these clothes every day-not only because it pleases him so much, and not only because it brings us joy as well, but also because our spiritual “clothing” can have a great effect on the people around us.
In this article, we want to look at what it means to follow the advice of St. Paul: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:14). We also want to take a closer look at what St. Paul told the Galatians, “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Why do we need to put on the Lord; why do we need to be clothed in Christ? Because it is the only way we can be made right with God. All of our good will, all of our service to the poor-as good as it is-all of our attempts at healing apart from the Lord: It all falls short. To put it simply, we need Jesus Christ. We need to stake our lives on his cross. He is the only one who can clothe us with the robe of salvation (Isaiah 61:10). He is the only one who can clothe us in a new covenant. He himself is the robe of righteousness, the garment of salvation, that we need to put on each and every day.
What does it mean to put on Jesus’ robe of salvation every day? First, we need to understand that we were clothed with Christ at our baptism. In fact, it was the tradition in the early church that catechumens went into the waters of baptism and were given a white robe to cover themselves when they came out. They symbolically accepted the new clothing of Christ when they put on that white robe.
Even today, when a person is baptized, he or she is given a white outer garment, while the priest or deacon says, “You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.”
But this clothing in Christ at baptism is a one-time act and cannot be repeated. So how is it that we are called to put on the robe of salvation every day afterward? Again, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians tells us. “You were called for freedom,” he writes. “But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love” (Galatians 5:13). Similarly, he told the Romans: “Sin must not reign over your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires. And do not present the parts of your bodies to sin as weapons for wickedness, but present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life” (Romans 6:12-13).
These verses tell us that the Holy Spirit lives in us-as in the “closet” of our hearts-through baptism. But at the same time we all have to reach into that closet, pick out our clothing, and put it on. There may be other clothes in that closet, and we can just as easily choose to wear them instead. But, as the Book of Isaiah tells us, these clothes amount to no more than “polluted rags” (Isaiah 64:5).
This theme of putting on the robe of salvation-or putting on the Lord Christ Jesus-is sounded over and over again in the New Testament. The Letter to the Ephesians, for instance, tells us: “Put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires . . . and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24). And in the Book of Revelation, Jesus exhorts the first believers: “Buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich, and white garments to put on so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed” (Revelation 3:18).
A Gift and a Call
Brothers, this robe of salvation that we clothe ourselves in is both a free gift from God and a call to action that we face each day. Every day, God asks us to confess with our lips that Jesus is our Lord and to believe in our hearts that he is our risen Savior. Every day, he urges us to choose Christ, to clothe ourselves with the truths of the faith so that we will be protected from the sin in the world. But he knows we cannot make these choices by the virtue of our strength alone. That’s why he gave us the great gift of Baptism, the Eucharist, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation – for our cleansing from sin and clothing in salvation. That’s why his only Son shed his blood as a ransom from sin and the pledge of a new covenant. Jesus really has given us everything we need to live a holy life. He now asks us to embrace this free gift and put on his robe of salvation each and every day.
(This article is an adaptation of the article, “Clothed with the Garment of Salvation” in the May 2008 issue of The Word Among Us devotional magazine. Used with permission. Joe Difato is the publisher of The Word Among Us.)
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- 1. This article describes some new insights into what it means to “clothe yourself” in Christ. How would you describe what it means?
- 2. The article asks the question “What does it mean to put on Jesus’ robe of salvation every day?” How would you describe this? How well are you able to do this each day?
- 3. The article goes on to say the following words, “These verses tell us that the Holy Spirit lives in us-as in the “closet” of our hearts-through baptism. But at the same time we all have to reach into that closet, pick out our clothing, and put it on. There may be other clothes in that closet, and we can just as easily choose to wear them instead. But, as the Book of Isaiah tells us, these clothes amount to no more than “polluted rags” (Isaiah 64:5).” How would you describe the difference between clothing yourself with Christ and clothing yourself with “polluted rags”?
- 4. The last paragraph begins with these words, “Brothers, this robe of salvation that we clothe ourselves in is both a free gift from God and a call to action that we face each day.” How can you respond to this call to action? If you are in a men’s group, share the fruits of your response at your next meeting.